Foschini Group accused of discriminating against black suppliers

The Foschini Group has been accused of discriminating against black-owned suppliers. Picture: Ayande Ndemane

The Foschini Group has been accused of discriminating against black-owned suppliers. Picture: Ayande Ndemane

Published Mar 3, 2024


FASHION Retailer, The Foschini Group (TFG), has been accused of discrimination against black-owned clothing manufacturing companies, and Sedibeng Textile and Clothing Forum said it has planned a consumer boycott action against the TFG stores for discriminating against black manufacturers.

The protest is scheduled for March 15.

All TFG stores in areas such as Vaal Mall, Vanderbijlpark CBD, Vereeniging CBD, Thabong Mall, Palm Springs Mall and Eyethu Mall will be affected.

The group has more than 2 600 stores located across South Africa, including Duesouth, Archive, Foschini, Jet, @home, Markham, Exact, Fabiani, Relay Jeans, The Fix, Sportscene, and Totalsports.

The Forum’s chairperson, Kenneth Shupinyane, said they had had enough of the rejection from TFG and other clothing companies who are not prepared to comply with the regulations of procuring local content.

Shupinyane, also the owner of Reaoboka Textile & Clothing, said several black manufacturers, himself included, approached the TFG and were rejected.

He said this was because TFG was arrogant and discriminative towards black-owned suppliers.

TFG head of group communications Kirsten Hewett said the forum’s information was inaccurate and defamatory, and, Hewett said, this was also raised with Shupinyane.

“We would also like to confirm that we have only engaged with one potential supplier in this area, Reaoboka Textile and Clothing, represented by the same Shupinyane,” said Hewett.

Hewett said the group was committed to building and growing “our” local manufacturing capability and capacity. Hewett said more than 76% of TFG’s products were produced locally, in then Southern African Development Development Community (SADC) or South Africa.

“We are proud to support black-owned businesses across South Africa and in the last year we have spent close to R1 billion with majority black-owned small businesses and invested more than R70 million in helping capacitate and grow empowered enterprises and suppliers.

“We currently employ 39 950 people in South Africa, with a further 2 000 people employed indirectly in our strategic non-owned CMTs. In support of the government’s 2030 R-CTFL Masterplan, we created over 8 000 jobs and workplace opportunities last year alone, the majority of which were young black talent.”

“Unfortunately, we are not always in a position to work with every business that approaches us as potential business partners. When we enter into these types of business arrangements, we consider the joint commercial opportunity and the needs and expectations of both parties and whether alignment can be found.

“With CMTs, these considerations include the existing and expected capability of the business, the experience of their operators, our planned expansion in particular categories of apparel, and the commerciality of the arrangement.

“Following extensive engagement with Reaoboka Textile and Clothing over the last 18 months, and with reference to all of the factors above, we were unable to find a way to work together,” Hewett said.

The group, through its legal representatives, ENSafrica, wrote to Shupinyane and instructed him not to share or distribute the information saying it was false and misleading information to extort their client and and incite violence.

The lawyers added should Shupinyane fail to give an undertaking, their client would have no option but to pursue its civil and criminal remedies available to protect staff, assets, and reputation and recover any losses or damages that TFG would suffer.

However, Shupinyane is not backing down. He said members were tired of this “prevailing racist behaviour” that was meted out against them and more members had come out but were afraid to speak to the media for fear of victimisation.

Shupinyane said the other one was told that she had no capacity.

“That’s when a decision was taken to take drastic measures because it also makes no sense that they procure all their merchandise from China but the blacks are their major customers. Ultimately, a decision to exert pressure on TFG was taken by staging a Consumer Boycott Action against them. We demand that TFG procure 10 million units of garments locally in 6 months so that we can at least create 5 000 job opportunities.”

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said it sympathises with the small-medium local clothing manufacturers lobbied by Sedibeng Textile & Clothing Forum who intend to campaign for the boycott of products by The Foschini Group, as a protest to what they allege is marginalisation from the supply deals.

The federation spokesperson Trevor Shaku said giving business to local manufacturers by “our” wholesalers and retailers, would boost production along the local textile value chain, resulting in desperately needed industrialisation.

“Saftu is calling for the re-industrialisation of the economy as the main factor which could multiply the economic growth and lead to job creation. Such a re-industrialisation process means abandoning the export-promotion strategies based mainly on the exportation of raw materials, especially from the extractive sectors.

“In the final analysis, we call on aspiring entrepreneurs and black bourgeois, who mainly remain parasitic on state tenders, to unite with the working class the battle to liquidate capitalism. They should not listen to motivational speakers and the government telling them we can create an extra 1 000 industrialists or more millionaires from entrepreneurship.

“As vindicated by this grievance from Sedibeng Textile & Clothing Forum against The Foschini Group, the aspirations are riddled with failures and heartaches. Capitalist competition is fuelled by driving prices down, and small businesses simply do not have the machinery and resources to drive down the unit prices of goods, and thus remain systemically uncompetitive,” said Shaku.

The South African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) national industrial policy officer Etienne Vlok said the union’s experience of TFG was very different from what the forum provided as the reasons for boycotting.

“As part of Sactwu’s work on behalf of our members, we interact with clothing retailers and clothing factories regularly. TFG buys a significant proportion of the clothing it sells locally, including from black-owned factories. In our experience, it is one of the best-performing South African clothing retailers when it comes to buying locally,” said Vlok.

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