General Manager of Mr. Price in West Africa, Mr. Subrathie Imtheyaaz, tells DAYO OKETOLA, why the average revenue per individual shopper in Nigeria is much more than what obtains in South Africa
How would you describe your experience in the Nigerian/Ghanaian market?
It is a new experience for us because it is our first foray into Africa proper. I am talking about the first time outside South Africa. Although we are in other parts of Southern Africa like Namibia, Botswana and others, this is our first experience outside Southern Africa, but more than that, we are really driven by the possibilities available in Nigeria, being a powerhouse of development and economic activities in Africa. Though it has been quite challenging, we are very glad with what we were able to achieve last year.
What challenges would say you have faced since you entered the Nigerian market?
I think the biggest challenge is the culture of doing business in a foreign country. We have been used to South African ways because we are an established brand in South Africa. We need to get used to the Nigerian climate and culture. For instance, we have in Nigeria a climate that is like an all year round summer. The cold weather in Nigeria, for example, is hotter than the South African summer. So, we have had to shape our merchandise to accommodate the climate. In terms of logistics, it’s not as easy here with the traffic to get stocks to the stores in a timely manner. So, we need to deal with such challenges. I think we’ve managed to get a good idea of the landscape over the last one year.
Where would say your company’s prospect is higher between Nigeria and Ghana?
Talking about Nigeria and Ghana, it is definitely Nigeria. I think the possibility and the potential of Nigeria and that of Ghana cannot even be compared. Strategically for Mr. Price, we are based in Nigeria and we operate from here. We will be feeding the Ghanaian market from here.
How much has Mr Price invested in Nigeria?
We celebrated our first anniversary in March, 2012 but store development and operations started before then. So, technically, we’ve been here for over a year. Beyond financial investments, what is most important to us is to invest in human capital. That is, investing in the people of Nigeria, helping to develop new talents and creating job opportunities for Nigerians. That for us is a more important factor.
So, how many Nigerians do you have in your employment?
We are putting finishing touches to opening a store in Ibadan in March, 2012 and people have already been engaged for that. With that we have, about 150 people have been employed on a permanent and casual basis. When we open Abuja in April, we will add another 50 workers, thereby increasing the total number of employees to 200.
Generally, what is your plan for the Nigerian market in terms of the number of stores to be opened?
Generally, our plan is to open about 25 to 30 stores in the country. I think if we can get to that it will be a big success. It will be beyond our expectations. We would have opened four by April and we think with this, we are on the right track. In other words, if we can roll out 25 to 30 stores in three years, then we would have surpassed our expectations. Primarily, we think Lagos is so big and we think there are so many opportunities here that even if we open 10 stores in Lagos, we will only be scratching the surface.
What is your strategy in the area of property acquisition?
Due to the rate of development, we will be very glad to set up about 25 to 30 stores in the next three years. There are a number of potential sites that we have already found. Obviously, not every store will be in a shopping centre or a shopping mall like we have it in Lagos. There will be stand-alone stores. We will also set up stores with well established Nigerian retail companies. There will also be sites where the landlords will have to develop the property to our specifications. We will also renovate some properties to fit into our business. By and large, we will not only set up stores in shopping centres, it will be a combination of both the shopping centres and the stand-alone stores.
How would you compare Nigeria and the South African market?
The potential in Nigeria is unbelievable. It is something we can’t compare with anywhere else in Africa. South Africa is good and obviously we have been successful there. We have been successful for many years of building the brand but with what we have seen in Nigeria, we are barely scratching the surface. Do you want to talk about the population? The spending power? The big differentiation between the South African shopping culture and the Nigerian shopping culture is that the average unit per consumer in Nigeria is much more than in South Africa. Nigerians buy much more than South Africans and this is very visible.
How would you compare the Ghanaian consumers’ spending power and that of their Nigerian counterparts?
In all sincerity, Ghanaian consumers also have high spending power like Nigerians. They are almost on par with their Nigerians counterparts. However, as I said earlier, the Nigerian market potential is incomparable.
Who are your competitions in Nigeria?
Though some other international retail brands have also entered Nigeria, but for us the biggest thing is the competition against local market. This is because there is a shopping culture embedded in the minds of an average Nigerian that they should shop in the local market. However, our prices are very affordable and we offer quality products. So, in essence, our biggest competitions are people in the local markets. Though it’s pretty difficult to reverse that culture, our job is to find ways to attract these consumers to our stores and make them experience a different type of shopping and still get the same quality and value.
There was recently a fire incident in your store located at Ikeja. What led to that?
It was caused by an electrical fault. Unfortunately one cannot foresee it. The most important thing was the fact that there was no fatality. However, a thorough check had been carried out on all the electrical fittings and we have been given the assurance by the electrical company that everything is okay. The way the fire service handled the situation and the evacuation was world-class and I think I must mention that.