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Pink tax on steroids? - Wendy Knowler grills Clicks over gendered hairbrush saga

17 June 2021 4:48 PM

CapeTalk host Pippa Hudson and consumer journalist Wendy Knowler look at 'pink tax" and the nonsensical gendering of products.
  • This week's ConsumerTalk feature focuses on how brands often entrench problematic gender stereotypes through the design and marketing of their products
  • Products marketed specifically toward women tend to be more expensive than those marketed for men, which is widely referred to as 'pink tax'
  • Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler uses the case study of the gendered Clicks hairbrushes which recently caused outrage online
  • Read below for the full response from Clicks

Health and beauty retailer Clicks got flak online last week for apparently charging 'pink tax' on its gendered hairbrushes for children.

In a picture posted on Twitter, a pink hairbrush for "pretty girls" cost R39.99 while a blue hairbrush for "brave boys" cost R14.00.

Clicks recently came under fire for charging 'pink tax' on detangling brushes for kids following an image posted on Twitter. Image: @IAmAForce_/Twitter

The picture sparked a debate online about the gendering of consumer products and the 'pink tax' imposed by manufacturers.

Clicks denied that the price difference was due to 'pink tax' but rather due to a price mark-down after the retailer had recently discontinued the boy's brush.

Knowler sent a media query to Bertina Engelbrecht, the group corporate affairs director at Clicks.

This was her official repsonse:

“At Clicks, we do not endorse gender stereotyping of any sort. There are however many products in the market that reference gender such as deodorants, grooming products, etc.

“We thank customers for making us aware of this oversight and apologise for the offense caused.

We have adopted the following price parity policy:

  • We support pricing parity that does not differentiate by gender and does not seek to exploit consumers based on their gender. Gender stereotyping goes against our style guide and company values.

  • We acknowledge that pricing differentials may occur during promotional periods or as a consequence of markdowns and commit to addressing any such differentials as soon as we become aware thereof.

“Our investigation into this matter has revealed that one of these items - THE BRAVE BOYS ONE - were recently discontinued. The rate of sale of the discontinued product resulted in the markdown % and a resultant difference in the price. In accordance with our policy, we have taken immediate steps to remove both items from shelf and earmarked them for donation.”

When asked why the boys brush was not displayed as being on promotion, Clicks told Knowler: “This was not a ‘promotional’ mark-down, it was a ‘mark-down to clear’, so the promotional mark-down sticker did not apply.

Knowler says the price discrepancy, gendering, and language used to market the brushes are "so staggeringly inappropriate, in 2021, that they could be mock-ups illustrating how not to sell such products.”

She says retailers globally are responding to consumer demand for gender-neutral products and an end to 'pink tax'.

Typically, such gendered stereotyping focuses on a girl's looks and conversely on a boy's ability or character. That has a major impact on girls, and the women they grow up to be, how they view their place in the world; the careers they seek out, the money they feel they should spend to preserve or enhance their looks.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

There's been a dramatic improvement - pink for girls and blue for boys started phasing out a few years ago... but there's still quite a bit of stereotyping that does happen.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

It's said to be one of the reasons why worryingly few women graduate in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

It’s not a stretch to suggest that packing the girl aisles with pink princessy dress-up stuff and kitchen sets, and the boy aisles with science kits, cars and robots could be where the conditioning starts.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

17 June 2021 4:48 PM

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