The Nigerian retail environment is in dire need of a wake up call if we are ever going to position ourselves as the go to destination for fashion on the continent. Until recently, fashion retail in Nigeria was restricted to trade in textiles, overcrowded and overpriced street style boutiques with products from four seasons ago, tailoring service from tailors cum designers, informal trading from home or door to door sales and off course the vibrant second hand market in Nigeria; but now, there is a seeming nod in the right direction towards retail as it should be.
Establishing a proper retail culture in any environment is a key element for setting the business of fashion in motion. This is what sets the South African fashion industry apart from any other country in Africa – the presence of a retail culture that helps improve their overall fashion business performance and drive competitive advantage between South African fashion brands and foreign owned franchise.
For a country with an estimated population of 155 million, SHF can categorically say that the demand for fashion goods is not commensurate with the available supply and Nigerians spend a fortune trying to make up for it on the international fashion scene. This probably explains why the Lagos – London route is one of the most commercial routes for both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in the world. It also shows that the existence of so many street style, front retail stores/shops/boutiques does not equate to having an adequate and functioning retail environment. The fashion retail business is so much than this and can function through a lot of ways such as the high street, department stores, boutiques, concession stores, e-commerce, pop up stores etc. What percentage of this do we have in Nigeria at the moment? It is safe to conclude that Nigeria is currently under provided with fashion retail facilities and there is an urgent need for the Nigerian government to support the expansion of the fashion retail sector.
As long as the diverse fashion needs of the people can not be met by what prevails in the retail industry, fashion retail as we know it, will have little or nothing to contribute to the economic growth of the nation and will always be relegated to the background as a sector with little or no importance. On the other hand, the fashion industry is not strong enough to do anything on its own so Nigeria as a nation must rise up and make a decision to establish a proper retail industry through the support of Nigerian designers, which can in turn encourage foreign direct investment in the fashion industry as long as there is stability in government and its policies.
The Nigerian fashion and retail industry’s growth is hindered by factors such as
- High cost of garment manufacturing
- Lack of readily available resources
- Ban on importation of textiles with little or no textile manufacturing companies in operation
- Tax implications
- Lack of garment manufacturing companies that can produce volumes at a lower cost for retail
- Quality control
- Exorbitant rents for stores
- Couture mentality of Nigerians vs. their high street budgets
- Lack of internationally recognised fashion event platforms
These factors can be a massive cog in the wheel of the industry but you still find some designers, stores and boutiques pressing on to deliver what we know as the fashion retail industry in Nigeria today.
What exists today has been the consistent work of dedicated designers like Tiffany Amber who many years ago, decided to take the plunge and commit to having a Nigerian designer owned stand alone retail store that can service the needs of her clients; thus paving the way for other designers and franchises to set up retail stores that can be bench-marked with international standards to do the same. There has since been an increase in the quantity of stand alone retail stores by designers like Remi Lagos, Deola Sagoe, Odio Mimonet and Tae to name a few. Other designers have studios that customers can walk into for made to measure service or ordering service which is not quite the same as retail but at least it ensures that the demands of customers for those products are being met.
SHF will be celebrating designers, boutiques, e-retailers, concession stores, pop up stores, shopping centres etc that have made it their business to ensure that fashion retail exists in Nigeria, thus creating job opportunities, feeding families, clothing the nation and creating a gradual evolution in the industry. Hopefully, this will continue to pave the way for more international franchises like Mango, Levi’s, Nike, Converse, Fossil and Swatch to set up shop and prosper in Nigeria.
As we celebrate what exists as a retail industry in Nigeria today, we are indeed hopeful that the Nigerian Government will put in place policies and adequate support structure that will create the right environment for retail to exist.
SHF credits morsipr.blogspot.com for the image of Tae’s Store.