Woolies scandal: ‘Naïve risks to blame’

A branding expert says Woolworths does a lot right but must be cautious when working with small suppliers.

A branding expert says Woolworths does a lot right but must be cautious when working with small suppliers. Picture: Woolworths Holdings Ltd

JOHANNESBURG - Experts say "naïve" risks are to blame for the so called "hummingbird scandal" at Woolworths.

Last week, the retailer came under attack after artist Euodia Roets accused it of plagiarising her design on certain cushions sold at Woolworths stores.

Roets alleges the retailer based its designs on a sample she submitted to them months earlier but did not compensate her.

But Woolworths CEO Ian Moir has denied having stolen the design, saying his company had been using hummingbird designs for months before meeting with the artist.

Speaking to 567 CapeTalk/Talk Radio 702's Bruce Whitfield on Monday, Interbrand Sampson De Villiers CEO Doug de Villiers said Woolworths has done well by partnering with small suppliers.

But he warned such deals can be subject to confusion and cause complications if not handled properly.

However, he says it's likely this scandal has been blown out of proportion.

"Woolworths does an incredible amount of things right. Everybody likes a negative rumour or a bad story."

De Villiers adds the growth in social media appears to have put major companies under the microscope.

"Now you can get one person onto social media - with or without a legitimate cry - and lots of people retweeting. You've got hundreds, thousands or millions of people all of a sudden in your audience."