• Sandton City in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently opened the Diamond Walk this year. African luxury shoppers can now head down South to Johannesburg for some Prada shoes, Tod’s bag or Louis Vuitton scarves. Johannesburg has now reaffirmed its position as the leading luxury destination in Sub-Saharan Africa. Well, in all honesty, it has always been so. This is exciting news for us in the luxury industry, Africa and South Africa. It is a sign that international luxury companies are taking Africa more seriously and increasing their investment in the continent.

    For a long while, South Africa was the point of entry into the rest of Africa, for various sectors. This has changed as various cities have positioned themselves as hubs for ICT, Oil and Gas, etc But the opening of the new mall with new luxury brands, sets South Africa as the entry point of entry into the African continent, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, for the luxury industry and luxury consumers.

    Image of the plan - Diamond Walk. Image: Sandton ManagementImage of the plan – Diamond Walk. Image: Sandton Management

    What makes the Diamond Walk very interesting is that stores that never existed in South Africa have opened and brands that already existed have now made Diamond Walk their new home (Louis Vuitton and Cartier).

    Prada has its first store in the country at 800m squared. The store was designed by Roberto Baciocchi. At Prada, a client has the options of purchasing ready to wear for men and women, leather goods and shoes. Other brands include: Tod’s, Jimmy Choo, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Ermenegildo Zegna, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and others.

    The newly opened Prada store. Image: Sandton City

    The newly opened Prada store. Image: Sandton City

    There are various issues to review in regards to the Diamond Walk mall and luxury in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    • Johannesburg has the right infrastructure required by international luxury brands. Investors in real estate have carefully carved a luxury real estate strategy for the city. This sets it a part from other cities that have malls for mass market and premium brands such as in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and other African countries. Most of the malls in these cities are yet to develop malls or streets that enable the client to shop in the required luxury ambience.

    Inside the new Prada store. Image: Sandton CityInside the new Prada store. Image: Sandton City

    • How will these brands target the Ultra High Networth (UHNWI) and the High Networth Individuals (HNWI) from other African countries such as Kenya, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon etc and convert them to shoppers from their stores in the Diamond Walk city instead of London, Paris or New York?

    The new Burberry store. Image: Sandton CityThe new Burberry store. Image: Sandton City

    • Will there be a concerted effort to target other African luxury consumers from market such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo Brazzaville, etc or will the focus be on the emerging luxury markets that provide high sales? I am referring to Nigeria and Angola.

    • In luxury stores such as in Paris, majority of the shop attendants are Chinese and speak Mandarin.This is Africa, inclusive of North Africa, we are 55 countries. What strategies will be used to identify different African luxury consumers? Considering the fact that in this continent we have: Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone and Arabic speakers. What works for a luxury consumers from Angola may not work for a Zambian.

    • Looking at the list of stores that have opened in the new mall, especially stores that did not exist previously, it is evident that majority of these stores are Italian and then the British. Here is the list: Tod’s, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Zegna and Armani. Then we have the British houses such as Burberry and Jimmy Choo. Does it mean the Italian luxury houses have more confidence in the African markets? In Lagos, there are several Italian brands such as Zegna, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. Should we expect luxury brands from other markets to fasten their entry into the continent?

    Newly opened Giorgio Armani store.  Image: Sandton CityNewly opened Giorgio Armani store. Image: Sandton City

    • In the Chinese market, a lot of luxury brands have adopted Chinese traditions and designs, will that be part of the plan one day for some of these luxury houses? Again, in a continent of many countries and diverse cultures, which country do you pick and decide to adopt its traditions and designs?

    • Will advertising campaigns be more localized as it is done in China and how will it be localized?

    • As we will have more and more stores opening up, what mechanisms are being planned or implemented to groom skills for the luxury sector?

    Voila! Luxury views for thought!


    Maryanne Maina is A Kenyan luxury consultant in Africa. MBA participant in Luxury Brand. Management in Paris, France. This story originally appeared on her blog on May 12, 2015. To read more of her stories, follow her blog: maryannenjeri.wordpress.com.