That Africa is the new mecca of international luxury brands is constantly reiterated by the number of new players in the market. The development of home-grown luxury brands is also more topical. And with these brands have come experts, such as Lola Emeruwa, who has worked for big global brands such as Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and Net a Porter in mega cities like London, Milan, Paris, New York, and more recently, with Ermenegildo Zegna in Lagos. As the founder of Le Retail Operations Management, a luxury retail consultancy firm in Nigeria, Emeruwa’s work spans retail operation analysis to buying and merchandizing. One of her key projects is a co-venture with WISH publishing to create a new retail avenue for high-end hotels in Nigeria. We caught up with Emeruwa mid-2015 to discuss the growing luxury market in Africa’s biggest economy.
Given your extensive background in international luxury fashion, what challenges does the African market face in this regard? How receptive are consumers to luxury in Africa?
Consumers are certainly very receptive to luxury in Nigeria and it is reflective of what I like to refer to as ‘The Nigerian Dream – the pursuit of finer things’. In a superficial assessment, you can see this desire fully expressed in a city like Lagos – in the abundance of luxury cars, upsurge of upmarket hotels, increased development of luxury retail spaces and surprisingly frequent conversations about the charter of private jets.
This is a reflection of great improvements in sub-Saharan Africa’s economic performance since the turn of the century, which grew at an average rate of 5.5% per annum in real terms between 2000 to 2012, compared to 2.54% per annum during the previous 13-year period.
Significantly, this growth has been despite factors such as limited infrastructure, little investment and lack of formal organization. Whilst on other continents this would pose as challenges, these are in fact just accepted here as the norm. In terms of the luxury retail industry, I believe the challenges are the same as in Europe or America: implementing effective marketing, new customer acquisition, logistical problems etc. However, for those trying to enter the Nigerian market and who are used to a more structured means of operating, it will be advisable to partner with a local expert.
What is your company’s vision for the Nigerian market?
Our vision is to develop a productive synergy for international brands looking to enter the Nigerian market. In addition, Le Retail intends to be the reference point for support and integration of local brands into the global market by ensuring international industry practice standards are met.
What areas will improve the viability of the Nigerian luxury retail space?
In the long term, improvement of infrastructure and power supply and in the short term, more sector deregulation of restrictions which would encourage capital inflow and increased investment.
Whilst infrastructure and energy projects are already ongoing (our election promise), I believe establishing a more formalized industry will give investors the confidence to diversify into the Nigerian luxury retail space.