The 23 March 1971 was the day nineteen-year old Patricia Naidoo walked into Playtex for her first day at work. She was soon promoted to Forelady and is now a Quality Supervisor in the design and development department. A whopping thirty-three years have passed and Patricia (now Mrs Ethirajulu) was recently presented with a Long Service Award.
Patricia is just one of many employees at Playtex in Durban who have dedicated many years of their life to the company - and have done so with complete contentment.
Although figures and finances say a lot about how a company is faring in the markets, true corporate success is often better judged by the attitude of the staff. According to this criterion, Playtex is prospering. With approximately 1650 employees, a very low turnover and no significant incidents of labour conflict in 30 years, Playtex is undoubtedly one of Durban?s happiest companies.
Operating in Jacobs, in KwaZulu-Natal since 1963, the South African division of Playtex originally chose to be located in Durban for the convenience of being near an international port. However, with vast advances taking place in transport and communication over recent years, the competitive gap between the provinces has closed. Playtex may be firmly established in the Durban area from a practical point of view, but the relationship to the province is also a sentimental one.
This unspoken preference for doing business in a specific city is not always easy to explain, as is probably the case around the world. In fact, there are factors which contribute to the company?s local success, that do not have any empirical explanation. One of these, is the reason why Asian women have proven to be the most skilled seamstresses. Fortunately, the KwaZulu-Natal province has the highest population of Indian people in the country, which has resulted in a large proportion of the Manufacturing division comprising of Asian women.
The proficiency of the Research & Design Division this department in Durban is recognised internationally and South Africa currently exports over one million units per year to European Playtex branches across Europe.
Presently a leading manufacturer and marketer of intimate apparel in the United States, Playtex is represented in approximately 55 countries around the world. In 1991, Playtex was bought by the Sara Lee Corporation; a global manufacturer and marketer of high-quality, brand-name consumer products.
Playtex was the first manufacturer to apply a classic packaged goods approach to intimate apparel, allowing the customer to select a product without having to ask for assistance. Playtex SA provides their retail customers with branded and private label products, the latter then being packaged according to the 'house' brand of each store. Playtex has established solid relationships with the large department stores in the country, their longest standing Private Label customer being Woolworths, to whom they have provided intimate wear for over thirty years.