Hobbycraft accused of refusing to sell paint to black customer ‘in case he uses it for graffiti’

File A Hobbycraft store  (PA Media)
File A Hobbycraft store (PA Media)

A black man from Cardiff has claimed that he was “racially profiled” at Hobbycraft after staff refused to sell him paint in case he would use it for “doing graffiti”.

Louis Gray, who works at Sport Wales as an equality, diversity and inclusion manager, said he was with his four-year-old son at the time, and had gone to buy spray paint to repaint the child’s bicycle helmet in the colours of his favourite mountain bike rider.

But writing in a thread on X which was later taken down, Mr Gray said he was “refused service” because he was black. He claimed he found himself surrounded by three staff members, including one who was “wearing a bodycam to record the transaction” and one who raised his hand to signal more staff to join.

He said the store manager at the Harlech retail park in Newport said: “We can’t serve you, you could be doing graffiti with this”.

“I was refused service because I am Black and wearing a Nike tracksuit, and Yeezys [trainers],” he said.

Hobbycraft said they have launched an investigation into the matter but that staff appeared to have refused the sale because they could not verify the customer’s age for an item that was in an age-restricted category.

It is an offence to sell spray paints to people under the age of 16 to “reduce the incidence of criminal damage” caused by acts of graffiti.

Hobbycraft said the staff were following their “Challenge 25” policy, which asks anyone who looks below 25 years of age for ID while purchasing such products.

“We would once again like to apologise for your recent experience in our store, we have a zero tolerance approach to racism here at Hobbycraft and this is not how we want any of our customers to feel,” Hobbycraft said in an email, according to the Daily Mail.

“We are continuing to investigate this with our Newport store team. Your situation involved the purchase of an age restricted product which requires age verification, meaning all colleagues are trained to ask for ID should they believe the customer is under the age of 25. As you were unable to share ID with our colleagues, they were unfortunately unable to authorise the sale.”

The Independent has approached Hobbycraft for comment.

Mr Gray accused the store of using the Challenge 25 policy to “justify their bias”. “They said to me, ‘you could be a mystery shopper trying to catch us out’,” said Mr Gray. “But the shop is on a retail park you have to drive to, and I was with a big four-year-old – who looks six, who was telling them he just wanted to paint his helmet. I haven’t been IDed anywhere for at least eight years.”

He said they were only able to buy the paint after calling his white grandad to make the purchase in what he was a “degrading experience”.

“Funny how, a white man came and purchased the paint, and did not get IDed. He simply said ‘he’s not with me, I promise I’m over 16 and the paint is for me’. A white promise is held with higher regard than a Black promise? Is the Black pound not worth anything at @Hobbycraft??”

Mr Gray said the incident left his son with questions and would impact his future, urging the store to apologise to his son.

He said his son asked him: “Did you not get served because you were black, Dad?” and that the boy, who has lighter skin than his father, then said: “If I looked like you, Dad, would I get served?”

He said: “How do I answer those questions? Hobbycraft have put me in a situation now where I am having to have these conversations with my four-year-old about race.”