Pedestrians pass in front of a Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) store in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

H&M Condemns Racism After `Monkey' Ad Sparks Africa Protests

(Bloomberg) -- Hennes & Mauritz AB went into damage-control mode over the weekend after a controversial advertisement sparked protests in South Africa.

The Swedish clothes retailer closed its South African shops after some outlets were trashed in an anti-racism protest against an online ad by H&M that featured a black child modeling a hoodie with the text “coolest monkey in the jungle.”

“H&M is aware of the recent events inside several of our South African stores,” the company said in a statement on its website. “What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers” and “we have temporarily closed our stores in South Africa.”

H&M was last week forced to apologize for the image after it caused a social-media storm and prompted Canadian artist The Weeknd to end his collaboration with the Stockholm-based company. H&M, which said it agreed with those who were upset by the image, pulled the garment in question from its stores. Over the weekend, the company took further steps to reject all forms of racial slander.

“We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable,” H&M said. “We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image.”

Two H&M outlets, one in Johannesburg and one in Pretoria, were trashed in an anti-racism protest by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party on Saturday, broadcaster eNCA reported, showing pictures of mannequins and clothes scattered on the floor. H&M said none of its staff or customers were injured in the protests and that it continues “to monitor the situation closely.” It will re-open the stores “as soon as the situation is safe again,” it said.

H&M has 17 stores in South Africa, with third-quarter sales in the country accounting for 0.3 percent of the company’s total revenue. While the retailer declined to comment further when contacted by Bloomberg News on Monday, referring only to the statement it released on Saturday, at least two of its stores in South Africa had re-opened for business when visited by Bloomberg News reporters on Monday. H&M shares rose 0.2 percent to 160.68 kronor in Stockholm as of 1:48 p.m. local time.

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