Exporting wholesale merchandise to Africa requires an understanding of the needs of the market which you are selling to, an ability to supply products at competitive prices, and the logistical ability to deliver the wholesale merchandise in a timely, cost effective, and safe manner. To run a successful wholesale business that sells to African stores, you will need to ensure that you can address each of the following steps.
Research the market. You will want to know the tastes of the customers that shop at the stores that you will be selling to. For example, if you plan on selling wholesale suits to a store in Lagos, Nigeria, you will need to know what kind of suits its customers prefer. In this case, since suits in Nigeria are mostly worn by bankers, you will need to have conservative style suits by recognizable brand names such as Tahari, Jones New York, or Calvin Klein. Or, if you are selling to a shop located in a mining town in South Africa you will want to know what kind of clothing local miners are looking for.
Within Africa there are many subcategories in the consumer market, and it is important to be aware of them. For example, countries located in West and East Africa, such as Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, and Uganda, have been influenced by American and European fashion tastes, and can have a sizable population that can afford brand name designer labels. There is a very strong market for used clothing in Central African countries such as in Gabon, Chad, and Rwanda.
Underlying this is the assumption that you are researching the price points at which the store can sell your clothing for, so that you will know how much you can wholesale it for.
You will need to source wholesale merchandise which is suitable for Africa. One mistake that wholesalers and exporters make when dealing with the continent is that they assume that the weather is warm all year round. In reality there places such as in South Africa that experience a winter, or have a rapid change in temperature from day to night.
To reach potential buyers you will want to use online marketing tools such as Google Adwords, Yahoo Pay Per Click, and Facebook ads, through which you can target your ads to specific countries, and with Facebook, to even certain demographics. You should also consider using African trade and online publications such as Ghanaweb.com, Nigeriaworld.com, Saweb.co.za, and other country and region specific media outlets.
Develop relationships with freight forwarders that have experience shipping products to Africa. There are many reputable companies such as Express Air Freight, DBSchenker, Grandbelle, and others that send orders on a weekly basis, and therefore can quote reasonable rates for your clients. Many shippers will even send the orders on a freight collect basis which means that the receiver can pay for the shipping when she receives the order. The advantage of this is that the customer knows that she will only pay for the exact shipping charge, and can spread out her total payments for her wholesale purchase.
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by Donny Lowy