Edcon to distribute UK brand River Island in South Africa

UNLISTED retail group Edcon has signed a franchise deal with British high street brand River Island, providing the local leading company with sole distribution rights in South Africa.

The first flagship store is set to launch in Rosebank, Johannesburg, in June next year, with additional flagship stores expected to open in Cape Town in October.

Edcon has introduced a slew of international brands like Topshop, Dune London and Lucky Brand through both franchise and store-in-store formats in an aim to attract footfall boost profitability. The group’s strategic initiatives also include improved sourcing and a beefed-up merchandising team for its core Edgars brand.

Local players such as Truworths, Woolworths and The Foschini Group have streamlined their fashion supply chain in the face of heightened competition as global players such as Zara and others expand in South Africa.

“River Island is a complete shopping experience all in itself. Not only is it extremely fashion forward but it is also very versatile and possesses its own unique flair. We expect it to be a hugely popular addition to our current range,” Edcon CEO Jürgen Schreiber said.

With more than 65 years of fashion retail experience, River Island continues to grow globally and has more than 300 stores in the UK, Ireland, Russia, Poland, Holland, Belgium and the Middle East.

“We are very excited to be entering into the South African market in partnership with Edcon. We are confident that together, with our combined knowledge and experience, we can deliver fantastic fashion and a great store experience to our South African customers,” River Island CEO Ben Lewis said.

Edcon, which also owns Jet, CNA and Boardmans, has grown from opening its first store in 1929, to trading in 1,368 stores in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The company would open stores in Ghana and Nigeria next year, Mr Schreiber said.

As the world’s second fastest-growing region, the continent’s booming economies have caught the eye of retailers in search of higher yields and untapped consumer spending potential.

Edcon continues to use discount fashion brand Jet as a beachhead to move into new African markets. The budget-conscious offerings of Mr Price and Pep are proving to be increasingly appealing to an emerging middle class, which is still price-sensitive.

“This (Africa) remains an exciting opportunity going forward,” Mr Schreiber said. “We normally go into a new country with Jet. In Zambia though, we went in with Edgars too — it’s working well. In the second half of next year, we’ll go into Ghana with both Edgars and Jet, because the market is quite strong. In Nigeria we’ll take a discount approach and not an Edgars one at this point.”



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