In a blog post updating those following the dispute between herself and retail giant Woolworths, Shannon McLaughlin, owner of Ubuntu Baba baby carriers owner, said she had been contacted by “a number of small business owners and entrepreneurs” with similar stories to hers.
On Wednesday, McLaughlin’s allegations that Woolworths had copied her product led to them pulling their version from stores and admitting to “striking similarities”.
“I am now sure that this issue is bigger than just Woolworths copying my Ubuntu Baba carriers, and it needs to be addressed,” she wrote.
“Big corporations, like Woolworths, should NOT be allowed to take advantage of local SMEs the way that they have clearly been doing. Instead, they should be looking into ways where they can support, rather than hinder small businesses in South Africa.”
Both McLaughlin and Woolworths have confirmed there had been meetings between Ubuntu Baba and the retail chain over the matter.
Woolworths released a statement saying that “while there are differences in our baby carrier, there are striking similarities which we acknowledge and take responsibility for”.
“We have sincerely apologised to Shannon personally and we would like to offer our heartfelt apologies to our customers who expect more from us,” the statement says.
“We are removing all [products] from our stores and online. Customers who wish to return their product, may do so for a full refund.
“We remain deeply committed to the development of small businesses in South Africa.”
McLaughlin, meanwhile, said over the next few days she would be engaging in ongoing talks with Woolies in a bid to ensure they’d “keep their promises” and actively support SMEs.
The Citizen reported on Tuesday that McLaughlin had written a blog post accusing Woolworths of having “shamelessly copied” her product. The post went viral.
Our article also noted that Woolworths had been at the centre of similar accusations in the past.
In 2012, the retailer was forced to take a range of vintage cold drinks off the shelves after it was ruled that the products were an imitation of Frankie’s soft drinks.
Then, in 2013, Woolworths was hit with another scandal when artist and designer Euodia Roets accused them of copying one of her designs.