Nigerian firm plans luxury E-commerce platform

Jennifer Obayuwana. Photo: http:

Local Nigerian appetites for luxury fashion appear to be intact, despite the financial hardships the country is facing over fallen crude oil prices and a devalued naira, Forbes reports.

Trendy hotspots are constantly appearing. Rumor has it, Dubai-based real estate firm Emaar is currently constructing a Nobu restaurant in the former Nigerian capital.

When Nigeria’s wealthy want a shopping spree without jetting off to London, they sometimes go to Polo Luxury, a Nigeria-based holding company which operates across West Africa with multiple luxury retail outlets. Polo Limited on Victoria Island is the main moneymaker of the Polo Luxury entity. Founded by John Obayuwana in 1991, Polo is the only authorized retailer in the region for brands including Rolex, Hublot, Cartier, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.

Jennifer Obayuwana is executive director of the company founded by her father. She spoke to Forbes about the planned March launch of Polo’s luxury online shopping platform – a first of its kind in Africa – with shipping throughout the continent.


From Forbes. Story by Declan Eytan.

Polo Limited specialized in retailing luxury watches, writing instruments and leather goods to a predominantly male audience. In 2014 another branch was added to the holding company: Polo Avenue, where luxury handbags, shoes and luggage take center stage. Located on Lagos’ more upscale Victoria Island, the store which opened its doors three years ago is a hidden gem inside the Polo Luxury headquarters’ first floor. Brands including Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Balenciaga, and newcomers such as Les Petits Joueurs and Giannico, are each part of the Polo Avenue mix.

“Nigerians are very brand-conscious, so it’s harder to sell an emerging brand. What we’ll do is, push these younger brands more via social media and then, of course, there is word-of-mouth. It can be tough at times as many clients just want to stick with the classic luxury brands. The established brands pretty much sell themselves. Right now the Gucci Dionysus bags are selling like hotcakes,” she said.

Considered a local style icon and public figure, the young entrepreneur has amassed an Instagram following exceeding 130,000. The Instagram account embodies the type of affluent lifestyle that is a wet dream to plenty of millennials: an abundant collection of Hermès bags, an enviable designer wardrobe, trips overseas, the occasional helicopter ride, and summers in the south of France. On a yacht. A marketing strategy which has even garnered the attention of U.K.-based TV producers, who’ve approached Obayuwana in the past to collaborate on a Rich Kids-like TV format. Obayuwana declined the offer.

“I’m happy about traffic. We’re seeing this emergence of upper-middle class Nigerians who spend $1,000 to $2,000 per visit on shoes and handbags. These are the clients that come back every month. Then there are also the high-net-worth individuals who may spend up to tens of thousands of dollars,” she said.

“We’re noticing an increase of African elite shopping here. African travelers from Angola or Congo for example who may travel here for business, and stop by to shop. Many of our clients are also foreign settlers who work here in the embassies — 80 percent of our customers is male, regardless of the fact that 60 percent of the items sold through our retail network are male products versus 40 percent female products. Our female clientele is between the ages 32 and 45, and guys between 40 and 55.”

Polo Luxury is in the process of building Nigeria-based mono-brand stores for Longine, Rolex and Cartier. The company is planning to take a similar approach with luxury fashion brands and will start retailing ready-to-wear goods this year.

An online shopping platform – a first of its kind in Africa – is set to launch in March.

“The e-commerce sector is rapidly gaining acceptance as a retail channel for luxury goods in emerging countries – especially Nigeria. Despite the infrastructural limitations, we decided to leverage on e-commerce to address the growing demand for luxury goods.

“The expectations of the typical African shopper are pretty high. From the latest and hottest luxury designers only found overseas, to our carefully packaged items, everything has been curated to give shoppers the feeling of shopping at an international high-end mall.

“In Nigeria we currently have e-tailers in the form of Jumia and Konga serving the mass market. We are serving the luxury market,” Obayuwana said.

The company (plans to add) fashion made by Africans, for Africans. “We will serve as a marketplace for some exclusive brands in Nigeria. Over the past 10 years, African designers have made significant contributions to the global fashion industry. Through our Polo Avenue fashion series, we will offer products from an emerging generation of African designers and offer them the platform to showcase their work, grow their clientele, and compete on a global scale.”