Community

Hairy situation for major stores in Halifax

Some black Nova Scotians said they feel like an afterthought when it comes to products stocked for them

Louanne White says stores just need to do their research.
Louanne White says stores just need to do their research.   Sarah Poko

Some black Nova Scotians said they’re upset because major stores either don’t stock hair products that cater to people of colour or the selections are limited.

Minis Stairs is a black Nova Scotian and a cashier at the Hollis Street store, Hairdressers’ Market – a specialty shop that stocks hair products for all hair types, including people of colour. She said she has had trouble in the past finding hair products that she needed. This includes relaxers, conditioners and moisturisers that are made specifically for her type of hair.

“I mean, they sell makeup for black people,” said Stairs. “So I don’t understand why they cannot stock enough hair products for us as well.”

Jade Smith is a graduate of Saint Mary’s University with a degree in accounting and finance. She is originally from the Bahamas, and she said she didn’t pay attention to the way products are stocked, as she gets most of her products from her home country.

“But I have noticed that with some stores, they have either some products or none at all,” said Smith. “And there’s not many options.”

Others blame location as a reason for the shortage of products.

“Sometimes, it depends on how many people of colour are in the area,” said Alexander Burgesson, a Ghanian immigrant. “If a Caucasian population is the majority, then can you fault them [the stores]?”

Linda Lockerby is a front-end manager at the Atlantic Superstore on Barrington Street. She is the former health and beauty manager at the store and has worked there for 30 years. She said 13 years ago products for people of colour were not popular at the time and so the store stopped stocking them.

“I’m sure it would sell now,” said Lockerby. “But we need to know what the people want. We need suggestions from customers, and that’s through the comment cards they fill out.”

Stairs said stores that claim ignorance are just being lazy.

“As a black woman, I’m offended,” said Stairs. “Our store tries to accommodate everyone. We always ask suppliers for a product if we don’t have it. It makes me feel like an outcast.”

Louanne White also works as a cashier at Hairdressers’ Market. She said stores just need to do their research.

“Find out what’s popular and ask questions,” said White. “It’s a sad situation really.”

However, Muzi Lweendo, a Zambian immigrant, said he thinks the stores are doing their best to stock up on these products.

“Canada is culturally not as diverse as people think,” said Lweendo. “This is all new to them. It’s not going to help for people to just react. It’s going to take time for integration to happen.”

Alex Morrison is a marketing expert and the owner of Malamax Marketing Solutions. She said products in stock sometimes depends on the number of sales.

“It’s a smaller segment of the population that is being targeted,” said Morrison. “It may just be a necessary part of numbers, statistics and revenue.”

Tanya Smith, a black Nova Scotian from Dartmouth, said she’s seen products for people of colour kept locked up behind a display case. She said this is not a proper way to market products.

“Why is it only black people?” Smith said. “It’s understandable if there’s a shoplifting problem, but they should hire more security instead.”

White said that she has also noticed that the products made available are almost always kept toward the back of the store, but she doesn’t mind it.

“If you can’t find what you need, it’s a nuisance to search,” said White. “But then I don’t have to waste time looking through shelves. It has its pros and cons.”

However, Smith said she considers this discrimination, regardless of whether it saves time.

Smith said, “This is consumer segregation.”