Interview with Idy Enang, Managing Director, L’Oréal Central West Africa

World Retail Voice Blog Post

Interview with Idy Enang, Managing Director, L’Oréal Central West Africa

Interview with Idy Enang, Managing Director, L’Oréal Central West Africa

What excites you the most about retailing at the moment?

It’s an exciting time to be in retail in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole. In Nigeria particularly the modern retail environment is undergoing rapid transformation and growth, mainly due to the growing population with more disposable income than in previous years. Traditional retail in terms of the open market has always been a vibrant and dynamic business to be in, however due to changing trends in the need for accessibility and convenience many independent stores and retail chains are springing up across the country, offering both food and non-food items. 10-15 years ago modern retail stores were only for the affluent… your typical A, B and C1 consumer. These days, you have the D&Es also popping into supermarkets and convenience stores to buy pretty much anything. The retailers have also become quite competitive and have constant promotional offers for the discerning and value conscious customer.

What would you say is the biggest issue facing manufacturers and retailers in Africa today?

Lack of adequate Power supply is by far the biggest challenge that faces any business in Nigeria today. Electricity is literally the life wire of any manufacturing company. The poor supply of electricity in Nigeria means that expenditure on alternative power supply vastly increases the overhead cost of doing business, and reduces bottom line profitability. Other challenges we face include poor infrastructure and internet connectivity, however these two issues are improving very rapidly in the most populated parts of the country.

That been said, there is no country in the world that doesn’t have its own challenges, therefore I prefer to focus on the positives. Let’s call it 170 million reasons to do business in Nigeria. The numbers say it all. It’s a huge mass market and you have 170M potential customers at your disposal.

A huge percentage of the population are of eligible working age as over 50% of the population are aged between 18 and 65 years old. Therefore labour is relatively ‘inexpensive’ and most young graduates are eager to work and gain the relevant experience they need to kick start their lives.

In brief, what are the ingredients to L’Oreal’s success in today’s retail climate?

Good quality products that people actually need, well-known brand names, constant innovation, we are all about the consumer.

Which retail business do you most admire and why?

There are so many to pick from, but here are a few examples;

House of Tara which began as a small entrepreneurship with one woman carrying a make-up box around, has grown to have 21 stores today and many more to come.

Health Plus and Casabella are another commendable business, when it comes to retail, location is key. She has over 20 combined stores across the county in high footfall locations which have ben key to their success.

Several small neighbourhood stores, who despite large overheads and the many challenges we face in this part of the world have managed to stay in business year after year, by building strong relationships with their customers and suppliers.

Lastly, I will always be in awe of the open market. I have a great deal of respect for the young men and women, who are in the market from as early as 7am every day of the week, sitting under the hot sun and in sometimes unsanitary conditions trying to make a living. Some of these guys have had little or no education and are self-taught traders. They have built very profitable and sustainable businesses applying specific business and trading principles that have seen them stand the test of time. Often, when I take the time to visit the market and talk to these guys, I can’t help but think that the only difference between them and some of the largest multi-national retailers in the world is power point.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Retail Congress Africa in Johannesburg?

Meeting like minds and sharing best practices. It’s always interesting to hear the challenges and opportunities in every market and the novel strategies being put in place to tackle them.

Idy Enang is speaking at this year’s Retail Congress Africa on ‘What is the future for retailing in West Africa?‘ – 12.15 on 18 November 2014

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