High-End Clarks To Double Africa Shoe Stores, But Security Is Key

High-End Clarks To Double Africa Shoe Stores, But Security Is Key

British high-end footwear brand Clarks plans to double the number of stores it has in Africa to 25 over the next year, but it will only go where opportunity exceeds risk, according to a report in HowWeMadeItInAfrica.

Clarks will open standalone outlets in Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana, the report says. The shoe maker will also increase its presence in countries where it already has stores, including South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco.

“Africa is an important growth strategy for Clarks,” said Irfan Porbanderwalla, president of Clarks Middle East and Africa in an interview with HowWeMadeItInAfrica. “Africa is moving from bazaars to high streets and shopping malls. We want to be part of that revolution and growth.”

But safety of staff, partners and the brand is pivotal, Porbanderwalla said, “so we will not go where the risks outweigh the opportunity. Libya is one of the countries we entered very recently, and we had been studying the market before the recent events. We are of course concerned about what is going on there.”

By the end of 2015, Clarks plans to have 25 stores in Africa. Although in some markets, Clarks operates its own stores, that model won’t be used in Africa yet.

“In Africa it is challenging because it is new to us,” Porbanderwalla said. “We believe that the quickest route to market is through a franchisee because they are on the ground and understand the psyche and consumer sentiments. It is better to work with partners as opposed to setting up on our own without having enough knowledge.”

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Clarks works with franchisees involved in retail such as supermarket chains to launch new stores in Africa.

In East Africa, Clarks partnered with supermarket chain Nakumatt Holdings to launch the first Clarks stores in Kenya in September 2013, where a pair of shoes retail for around US$100. A year later, Nakumatt now operates four stores in Nairobi with plans to launch two more in the city.

New Clarks stores will also be launched at the supermarket’s branches in Mombasa, Kampala and Dar es Salaam in coming months, according to Nakumatt managing director Atul Shah.

Clarks is targeting upwardly mobile clients with an eye for stylish British shoes in countries where “retail is evolving”, according to HowWeMadeItInAfrica .

Established in 1825 by brothers James and Cyrus Clark, the shoe store is a leading global footwear retailer with sales of about $2.24 billion.

Porbanderwalla said partners’ understanding of the local market and consumers is helpful in decision making, especially in volatile environments.

“We will not open in areas that are prone to attacks,” he said. “We will go into safer places within the region. We don’t want to expand for the sake of expansion.

“Thankfully the situation in Algeria and Morocco has settled. Egypt is stabilising and we are trying to avoid obvious areas which we don’t have to be in. In the capital and in key cities where it is not that risky, we feel okay to venture in.”

High freight and import costs are among the challenges Clarks has faced in Africa, according to HowWeMadeItInAfrica. “There is significant red tape that we have to go through just to get products into the market. And it is also challenging to get quality locations and the right partners,” Porbanderwalla said.