Retail fashion is a challenge in Nigeria-Fela Yomi-Layinka
The year 2017 was an economic roller coaster for Nigeria, most especially for SME’s and Start Up businesses. The Dollar had risen against the Naira to an all time high and only managed to settle somewhere between N360-N365towards the later part of the year. For most small businesses, the economic recession spent doom and understandably so. This was a bizarre season where goods & services saw an unprecedented increase in price, while financial resources generally shrinking and kept shrinking. One of such small businesses that definitely felt the brunt of the 2016-2017 economic downturns is OYL SIGNATURE COLLECTION. MUTIAT ALLI had a chat with Olufela Yomi-Layinka aka Phizzle Fela, a multi-faceted creative entrepreneur, rapper, song writer, logo designer, brand consultant and film/TV producer. He is equally the founder of EyeCandy Media, a freelance/project based brand design & concept development collective. He discuss the impact of the economy on a young business like his, how he and his team have managed to weather the turbulent financial season enough to introduce new products and launch a sub-brand.
The OYL SIGNATURE brand……..
It is a fashion and lifestyle brand with a vision of retailing uniquely designed accessories & apparels from a Nigerian perspective. We are currently building a portfolio of unique products that are not only comparable internationally when it comes to product quality but in design aesthetics. In short, our primary objective is to build a reputable brand of notable value with products internationally recognizable designs & comparable manufacturing quality. I know it’s easier said than done, but we are here for the long run.
The several channels of the brand…….
The company currently retails its products under 2 sub brands – OYL SIGNATURE COLLECTION and the NOVELTY SPORTS COLLECTION. OYL Signature Collection caters an array of OYL branded fashion and lifestyle accessories which currently include the Flair Tag (a stainless steel chain & pendant design), the Friends’ Cuff, the INVAs Cuff, BCDC Hand Chain, the Meander Charm Bracelets, Clutch Leather Bracelets (our current range of wrist wear accessories) and the Vanity Ring (currently our only finger ring design)
The Novelty Sports Collection also known as NSC is an annual capsule collection of apparel. This sub-brand was created to cater to the teeming urban street wear culture and the immediate ‘sports-casual’ needs of our growing clientele. We introduced our first product under this brand name sometime late 2016 – The Novelty Hat (a simplistic snap back design) a product we are proud to say we have retailed over 1000 unit till date. On the 13th of August last year, we formally launched NSC-17 Limited Edition capsule collection, which included a new hat, lux sweatshirts and crop tops for the ladies. Right now plans are already on the way for the introduction of NSC-18 capsule for next year, in a grander manner hopefully.
On visit to the textile marketing and manufacturing in Nigeria ‘Aba’…….
Earlier this year, my business partner and I travelled to Aba, which is reputably the headquarters for textile marketing and manufacturing in Nigeria. Our goal was to simply explore & under-study the vast marketing region, in the hopes of developing valuable business relationships and connections for our future product development needs most especially for our NSC sub-brand. While this proved to be a fruitful trip in terms of new knowledge gained and a general exposure to huge deposit of raw materials, two Lagos boys with dreams of creating ‘an internationally reputable fashion products brand’ quickly came to the realization that it is systematically cheaper to manufacture knock-off Versace pants that it was to produce an original NSC sweatshirt. Amazing right?
When the recession hit in 2016, it couldn’t have come at a more trying period. We had just placed a bulk order for our first OYL branded design – The Friends’ Cuff. Everything was good to go, prices had been set, marketing plans in place, packaging items sourced, and a few pre-orders had even come in. We had even paid our deposit to the manufactures and were just waiting eagerly to receive our shipment from our overseas partners so we can hit the ground running. We had calculated our profit margins, and were sure we were going to be smiling to the bank on this one. All of a sudden, the Naira crashed, and it didn’t just crash, it kept crashing. I was totally confused, I mean I had just put in all my savings, and had also gotten my business partner to buy into the plan. He had trusted my creativity, believing in the vision he had just bought in to the company, and this was our first outing as partners. What were we going to do? How could we salvage this? How were we going to survive this? All these questions kept running through my head. The answer was simple, nothing! Nothing at all! We had no choice, we decided to follow the course, trust the plan. One of the major lessons I picked up in business school is that a successful business is not one without challenges, and that beyond profitability and return on investments, the health of the business is determined by the proprietors’ ability to keep the ‘machine’ running, especially at the most trying of times, and these was definitely one of those trying times. We went ahead with all our plans for the product, kept the preset prices, and even had to deal with manufacturing errors that eventually forced us to drop the prices further. However I am proud to say we completely sold out that product, and it is such a customer favourite that we have already set out plans to release an upgraded version of the design for the year 2018, based on customer feedback. Even though by the time we checked our books for 2016, we ended up taking a huge financial loss of about N2 Million in our first fully operational year, we have been able to learn from our mistakes, re-strategize and stabilize this 2017, now we are focused and ready to give 2018 all it takes.
The retail fashion challenge in Nigeria…..
Retail fashion is a challenge in itself where Nigeria is concerned. The majority of the renowned & financial successful fashion labels in Nigeria deal primarily in be-spoke fashion as opposed to ‘ready-made’. While a few brands like TT Dalk, David Wej etc have managed to thrive in the retail-products market, the reality still remains that most Nigerian brands are not necessarily in health competitions with each other. Rather we are generally tasked with competing against foreign brands (mostly knock-off products) that are not in any way tasked with our socio-economic realities. However, we are not perturbed, we are young and resilient and are determined to reach our destined goal, we shall fulfill our destiny.
The OYL signature is basically an online store where business is transacted via all the major social media platforms.
It is really about growth for us. In 2018 we plan to continuously expand our product range, improve our quality and customer service, and explore better and farther reaching marketing and distribution techniques. Most importantly we hope to build on the trust that Nigerians have put in the OYL SIGNATURE brand. A trust that has helped us move thousands of products to customers all over Nigeria; East, West, North, South, with less than three thousand follower on our instagram page, which is been our core marketing tool till date. We are grateful and we definitely do not plan to disappoint our growing community of supporters. Expect magic! See I had a personal experience recently that showed me that when we dream, all we need is believe to make it real. So thank you to all the believers in the OYL dream!