British high street fashion retailer Topshop opens its first store in Africa on Thursday, joining a slew of foreign companies hoping to tap into the continent’s mushrooming middle class.
The 950m² store is located in Johannesburg’s Sandton City shopping centre. A second outlet will open in Gateway Mall, Durban, next month.
The British retailer, known for its cheap, chic apparel, is part of the Arcadia Group, which is wholly owned by billionaire businessman Sir Philip Green.
The franchise and shop-in-shops expansion will be through a partnership with local companies The House of Busby and Edcon, which together hold the rights for Topshop and Topman.
"This represents another step in our continued international growth, and I am confident that the South African customers will enjoy the retail experience and fantastic product offer that both our brands will deliver for them," Mr Green said earlier this year.
Chris Gilmour, an analyst at Absa Investments, said the group’s expansion into South Africa was a big vote of confidence in the country as a destination for international retailers.
"It comes hot on the heels of a number of them, such as Thomas Pink, Zara and one or two others. Having said that, I think the chances of a major expansion in the country are quite limited. Much depends on the price point and how they compare to local retailers," he said.
Spain’s Zara, owned by Inditex, the world’s biggest fashion retailer, opened its doors in South Africa late last year. The retailer, which has new items appearing in its stores twice a week, has three outlets in South Africa.
Australian retailer Cotton On Group is also expanding the presence of its brands Typo and Factorie in South Africa.
Although local companies such as Foschini, Woolworths and Truworths already have a significant presence across the country in prime locations, they are streamlining sourcing and speed-to-market efficiencies in the face of new entrants.