Timberland uses SA base for African expansion

US OUTDOOR lifestyle brand Timberland, which has 25 stores in South Africa, is opening in Angola and Mozambique this month.

The company, which first launched in South Africa in 1996, has a distributorship and retail development agreement with local firm Keystone Apparel Company, which also owns the rights to high-end men’s label Hackett London in South Africa.

The country has attracted a slew of international brands, many of which are eyeing it as a stepping stone to other sub-Saharan markets.

The fast-growing economies of Africa present a compelling investment case. By 2030, the continent’s top 18 cities could have combined spending power of $1.3-trillion.

Timberland’s brand image, recently renewed, blends outdoor craftsmanship and contemporary design aimed at a younger, millennial customer.

“African expansion is important on our growth agenda … it will include further Angolan openings, Ghana and Botswana,” Timberland South Africa director Abdullah Mayet said last week.

European men’s fashion brand Suitsupply is testing the African waters through its e-commerce website, Africa.suitsupply.com. Payment options have been tailored to include cash on delivery, and processors such as Kenya’s M-Pesa and Nigeria’s Interswitch. The company is eyeing Nigeria, Angola, Kenya and South Africa for store roll-outs.

The launch of franchise stores and shop-in-shops also reduces the potential risk of entering new markets and ensures that a retailer gains local market knowledge. It also enables rapid expansion, where premium sites are scarce.

Senior analyst at London’s Planet Retail, Isabel Cavill, says that for a long time retailers shied away from South Africa because of the logistics and the seasonal differences, although they are now starting to get around these problems by creating ranges that are less season sensitive.

“There are also wholesale opportunities for retailers looking to open in South Africa via a strong department store network.”

Last year, brand management company Brand Capital introduced the Ted Baker brand in South Africa at Stuttafords and it has just launched UK handbag and accessory brand Radley.

Brand Capital CEO Marco Cicoria says: “Our strategy for Ted Baker is based on a three-to five-year plan.

“The first two years we’re looking at a shop-in-shops concept in Stuttafords and then for wholesale we will choose another retail partner, possibly another department store.

“The third phase would then be a careful look at locations for standalone stores.”

With the proliferation of international retailers such as Zara and Topshop expanding in South Africa, local groups are boosting their fashion credibility.

Woolworths last week showcased the autumn-winter 2014 collections of Witchery and Mimco, fashion brands it will bring to South Africa in March. Along with new brands in its arsenal, Woolworths’ enhanced procurement strategy and better relationships with its suppliers has allowed the group to shorten lead times. The up-market player, which wants to be a leading fashion retailer in the southern hemisphere, hopes to emulate the success of its other Australian labels, Country Road and Trenery.

Edcon has also beefed-up merchandising teams and introduced brands such as TM Lewin, Lucky Brand and Tom Tailor.

Noah Capital Markets retail analyst Roger Tejwani says international brands coming into the country collectively added “a little bit” of pressure on local fashion retailers.

H&M will open its first store in South Africa in 2015.


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