African fashion retailers raised local luxury’s profile. What’s next?

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When African multi-brand retailers emerged in 2019, their early focus was on supporting a more inclusive industry and heightening awareness of the continent’s luxury offer — both regionally and internationally.

All that is still part of the agenda, but these multi-brand retailers are now moving to the next level, rewriting the e-commerce playbook and strengthening their business models for sustainable, long-term growth, selling African brands within Africa and in key export markets such as the US.

The African luxury goods market may be small in international terms but its potential is considered promising. It’s also experiencing a steady rebound following the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic. The countries to watch? South Africa is the biggest luxury market in Africa, worth $133 million, according to Euromonitor International. Other countries with growing luxury potential include Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt. “South Africa has a rapidly growing middle class that will increasingly enter the luxury market and bodes well for the future, if no further setbacks are experienced,” says Jolandi Grace, Africa’s luxury and fashion community practice leader at Deloitte.

Home-grown African brands are full of export potential, says Laureen Kouassi-Olsson, founder and CEO of Birimian, an investment company that works with African heritage luxury and premium brands, typically investing in young and emerging brands, but also ready to consider a stake in an African multi-brand retailer.

The key to long-term growth for African multi-brand retailers is a thriving e-commerce channel. Amira Rasool, founder of The Folklore, a New-York based online multi-brand retailer that stocks African brands and brands from the African diaspora, raised $1.7 million this month in a pre-seed funding round led by Slauson & Co, an inclusive early-stage venture capital firm.

The Folklore has recently launched a separate B2B wholesale e-commerce platform called The Folklore Connect, intended to help global retailers discover and work with African and diasporic designer fashion and lifestyle brands.

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