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Shoprite controls 22% of Nigeria’s formal retail, future to be driven by indigenous retailers

Nigeria’s retail market faced a myriad of challenges following the recession in 2016.

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Shoprite controls 22% of Nigeria’s formal retail, future to be driven by indigenous retailers

The Nigeria Shoprite knew when they made entry through the launch of The Palms in December 2005 is a sharp contrast to its current condition. Little formal retail competition, a stable currency and much higher GDP growth rates were core themes in Nigeria’s story about a decade ago and as a result, Shoprite’s business grew by over 10% annually for 13 straight years in its Non-South African country operations where Nigeria played a major role.

Shoprite sat at the very heart of Nigeria’s retail boom which saw the total retail space grow 10x from 2005 to late 2017. Despite the 13 years of strong growth, the combination of events that have occurred over the past 3-4 years was enough for Shoprite to decide, albeit in a much softer way than their South African counterparts, to call it quits by selling a stake in their Nigerian subsidiary to potential investors. All in all, the signaling that comes with a complete or partial sale of Shoprite’s stake in its Nigerian subsidiary is much worse than the action itself.

READ ALSO: TradeDepot raises $10 million in pre-Series B equity round

Why are they leaving?

Nigeria’s retail market faced a myriad of challenges following the recession in 2016 provoking a loss of confidence in the market as investors suspended their large exciting retail projects and a handful of retailers exited the country. With a slowdown in retail developments, Shoprite, who serve as the go-to anchor tenant in Nigeria’s major malls found it difficult to expand.

Segment sales growth in Nigeria since June 2019 have been unimpressive compared to Shoprite’s home market in South Africa, even though that economy has been in recession since the beginning of the year. The xenophobic inspired attacks in September 2019 saw 14 Nigerian malls with Shoprite as its anchor tenant looted and damaged. This worsened sales growth and led to a 59% reduction in weekly customer visits according to their 2019 results presentation. Two months after the protests, customer visits were still 14% lower than the typical.

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READ MORE: Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology to change the Nigerian retail experience?

Although Shoprite’s recent performance decline is highly influenced by currency fluctuations, the group mentioned in their 2019 results presentation that they were taking immediate actions in reducing dollar-denominated rent, borrowings and curbing capital allocation for new stores and developments proving these were also a struggle for the company.

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How big is Shoprite in Nigeria?

Shoprite’s relevance in Nigeria’s retail is highly significant with its anchor presence in 25 malls controlling about one-fifth or c. 21.81% of Nigeria’s total retail space. This indicates that any shakeup with Shoprite has significant consequences for Nigeria’s retail industry. Before the entrance of other retailers, Shoprite Nigeria had very significant dominance in Nigerian retail centres dictating lease terms due to its heavy traction.

READ ALSO: Shoprite lays off 115 workers, shuts down second branch in 5 months

Who are the potential investors in Shoprite that can close the void?

Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited, the Nigerian arm of Shoprite Holdings revealed they have identified Nigerian investors that “share in its vision”.  Shoprite Holdings is keen on creating a “truly Nigerian business” for its Nigerian arm by transferring the majority of its ownership to indigenous investors. This provides an opportunity for indigenous retailers who started out in standalone shops seeking to expand their local dominance by growing into malls.

A few notable Indigenous retailers who have recorded significant growth recently include Hubmart, Jara, Prince Ebaeno among others. While some retailers have expressed interest and started to expand their footprint into formal retail centres, others have expressed disinterest in that strategy.

Hubmart expanded into formal retail centres through their entry into The Lennox Mall in 2018 leading to a total of 4 retail stores in Lagos State. Prince Ebaeno has so far avoided the formal retail strategy and stuck with standalone stores. Now they control a total of 5 retail stores in Lagos and Abuja. Jara (officially EDLP Nigeria Ltd) recently launched a small retail centre in Ikeja and another in Edo State and are looking to establish a nationwide discount supermarket and retail chain and aligning with Shoprite could expedite that process. The company is linked to the Persianas Group (owners of The Palms chain of malls) who, as we will point out, have a vested interest in this process. Other retailers such as SPAR, keen on expanding their local presence in formal retail may also be looking in Shoprite’s direction.

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It is worthy to note Carrefour, an International retail store with relatable dominance across other African countries who tried penetrating the market by anchoring the c.20,000 sqm Twin Lakes Mall by Actis. Further expansion by Carrefour after Twin Lakes Mall would have threatened Shoprite’s dominance. However, plans for this mall were suspended largely due to the macroeconomic downturn, retail market fundamentals and a change in Actis’ investment strategy. The sale of Shoprite might just serve as an opportunity for Carrefour to make market entry if they are willing to look long term as problems that suspended Twin Lakes Mall still persist.

What does this mean for the market players?

  1. Shoprite – The mighty anchor: As we expect the Nigerian arm of Shoprite to continue to build the business in Nigeria with potential investors, a transfer of ownership to indigenous investors with better staying power should reduce the risk of foreign exchange volatility as they patronize indigenous products and report profit in naira. Shoprite can then focus on its South African arm without the distraction of volatile commodity-based economies like Nigeria which make it hard to operate.
  2. Other Retailers: In our Boom & Bust report, we pointed out that retailers typically start out in standalone shops, expand their footprint and gain the capacity to grow into malls. In Nigeria, the malls came much faster than the tenants could grow as strong homegrown brands are only just coming into their own. This potential sale provides an opportunity for an existing retailer to bolster its operations, not just by moving from standalone stores to formal centres but dominating the market as an indigenous retailer (This is in a case where Shoprite’s brand name is not retained).

Observing international retailers that have or are in the process of exiting Nigeria such as Woolworths, Truworths, Mr Price, they tend to stick with operations in their country of origin as they understand the market and have historically generated impressive returns. An indigenous retailer acquiring Shoprite’s property portfolio will be immense for organic growth and will likely see the retailer support the development of multiple shopping malls in the future.

  1. Asset Owners: Shoprite’s announcement most likely causes a major scare to mall owners due to the amount of retail space controlled and the proportionate control of income. Many asset owners found out about their plans at the same time as everyone else. Novare, Resilient Africa and Persianas Investments who control 40% of Nigeria’s formal retail and own 10 of the 25 malls that Shoprite are in, have a lot to lose if this process does not run smoothly. We expect them to be involved in this transition that will change who their largest tenant will be.

Where have we seen this before?

  • In November 2013, Woolworths announced plans to exit Nigeria noting high rents and supply chain challenges.
  • In February 2016, Truworths shut down its 2 stores in Nigeria citing stringent import regulations and rising costs as major challenges.
  • In July 2019, Woolworths shut down its 2 stores in Ghana after “a comprehensive review of its operations”.
  • In April 2019, Foschini and Edgars closed down their store in West Hills Mall, Ghana as they review their business strategy and eventually pull out of Ghana.
  • In June 2020, Mr Price announced plans to exit the Nigerian business in H1:2021 after referring to the Nigerian market as a “distraction”.
  • It is time for Indigenous retailers to dominate

Shares in Shoprite Holdings increased by over 11% on the 3rd of August, 2020 showing that investors are more confident with the decision. Nigeria’s macroeconomic realities do not seem favourable particularly for international retailers due to the foreign exchange volatility. However, local retailers such as Prince Ebaeno, Hubmart and Jara have better-staying power and are even expanding stores due to the lower exposure to foreign exchange volatility that international retailers have cited as a crucial problem.

This chain of events could establish dominance for indigenous retailers as seen in the Kenyan retail industry with the current largest retail stock in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their first formal mall opened in 1984 and their indigenous tenant pool has grown organically over time. Indigenous retailers undoubtedly need to be supported but the current immense opportunities could tell a new story for the sector 5-10 years from now.

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COVID-19 forces tenants to request moratoriums from property owners

Tenants demanding moratorium from landlords because of the effects of COVID-19.

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Nigeria's real estate, COVID-19 forces tenants to request moratoriums from property owners

The effect of the Coronavirus pandemic is telling on the Real Estate sector, as many occupants have requested moratoriums from property owners or managers.

In separate interviews, some tenants told Nairametrics that they could no longer afford their rents, hence the need for moratoriums. If denied, a lot of them are ready to move to border towns of Lagos.

READ: Bank’s Credit to Nigeria’s Real Estate sector hits 5-year low

A moratorium is a legal authorization to debtors to postpone payment. The document can be obtained by tenants, to prevent the managers or owners of properties from taking legal actions against them.

A banker and resident of Oduduwa Crescent, Ikeja GRA, who simply identified himself as Kola, said that his landlord had informed him of a planned 25% increment in his rent from April 2020, a month before his rent was due, which he had agreed to.

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Unfortunately, in May 2020, his employer (one of the Tier-1 banks) gave him the option of either accepting a 25% pay cut in May or resigning. Considering the fact that he had no side hustle, Kola chose the ‘lesser evil.’

READ: Non-Performing loans hit 4-year low as Banks recover N496 billion

“I took the decision because it pays me to allow a pay cut, than being out of job. At that point, I considered requesting a moratorium, as I have never owed rents before. I could afford to pay the rent, but I didn’t know how long I will be without a job, and paying the rent from my savings was not a wise decision for me. As Expected, the property owner was not comfortable with my request, as he suggested that I relocate to a cheaper facility.”

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In his own case, Richard, who was a manager in one of the hotels close to the Lekki toll gate, was not as lucky as Kola. His rent was due by May, the same month his employer asked him to stay at home till further notice.

Efforts to plead with his landlord to buy more time fell on deaf ears, as the owner of his Surulere apartment was bent on collecting the rent.

READ: Lagos State Government offers 15% Discount on Land Use Charge Payments

He said, “I had no choice but to plead for three months to secure another apartment when it became obvious that my employer would not recall us anytime soon. Eventually, I decided to move from Surulere to Magboro where rents are cheaper, and property owners may be reasonable unlike their counterparts in Lagos.”

Kola and Richard are only two among hundreds of breadwinners that lost their sources of income or had pay cuts, especially during the lockdown. A lot of them, whose rents were due between April and July, are currently looking for cheaper residences amidst pressure from their landlords.

No doubt, apartments are cheaper in some border towns of Lagos. Some of the areas are Akute, OPIC (Wawa), Arepo, and Magboro, all in Ogun State.

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For instance, while a self-contain apartment is obtainable between N120,000 to N150,000, a 2-bedroom flat goes between N250,000 to N300,000 per annum, and a 3-bedroom flat is rented between N350,000 to N400,000. In the city centre, such as Ikeja, Gbagada, and Surulere or on the Island, the rents are astronomical.

The heat will be more

A Real Estate practitioner and also the Vice President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Gbenga Ismail, explained that the impact of COVID-19 in real estate would be felt later, because of the tenancy/rent structure of the sector.

Unlike what is obtainable in other climes like the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America, where rents are renewed on a monthly or quarterly basis, Nigeria may not feel the pressure now, as rents are paid in one or two years’ advance.

Ismail, in an interview with Channels TV, said, “Most people that either lost their jobs, or had their salaries slashed, are likely to have paid their rents in advance before the virus, and that could still ease the tension for now, at least till the end of the year. Right now, what happened is that, by the lockdown period, you won’t feel anything; but by the third or fourth quarter of the year, you start feeling it; only then, would we see how it has affected Nigeria. By then, people won’t be able to pay rents or buy houses as planned. We are not sure of where the monetary issues are going now, and if lending will continue into the real estate sector. We are yet to see some of these things going on. Even in inventories, where developers have put houses out for rent, the concern is who is going to rent them? Before COVID-19, we wait 6 months before houses get rented or leased, but now it may not be less than 12 months. The immediate impact would soon start to reveal itself.”

More plead for a moratorium

Ismail added that more tenants would likely plead for moratoriums, because their businesses may have been affected, and some might have lost their jobs.

“Those who have mortgages and are possibly in the risk areas of losing their jobs will definitely have discussions with their lenders if that happens. I think the mortgage firms have to listen and think of how to help them since the COVID situation is a force majeure – unexpected circumstance. People are being forced to make decisions they did not plan to make,” he added.

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

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In all, the experts urged all stakeholders not to panic, as the phase will definitely pass, and the economy will gradually recover.

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Real Estate

CBN approves N200 billion housing loan for 300,000 households at 5% per annum

The facility is to enable FHF finance construction of social housing units for low-income earners.

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has approved the sum of N200 billion as mortgage finance facility to the Family Homes Fund Limited (FHFL) and targeted at low income earners.

According to a circular, which was issued by the CBN and seen by Nairametrics, this financing initiative is to be implemented in collaboration with the Family Homes Fund Limited as the lead developer, as it is introduced to support the Federal Government’s Economic Sustainability programme.

READ: Nigeria to begin gold production in 2021 with the Segilola Gold Project

This fund is to fast track the construction of 300,000 homes in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory and to create up to 1.5 million jobs in 5 years.

In addition to the 1.5 million direct construction sector jobs particularly young people on a low income, the programme also has the potential to create further 1 million jobs through its supply chain.

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READ: FG meets group to access AfCFTA’s $650 billion market

The CBN in the circular stated, ‘’The programme will house up to 900,000 children and adults (at an average of 3 persons/home) on a low income with direct impact on health, education and economic outcomes. Most of these would currently live in informal settlements with shared facilities in unsanitary environments. Towards targeting people on low-income level across the country.’’

(READ MORE:has approved the sum of N200 billion as mortgage finance facility to the Family Homes Fund Limited (FHFL) and targeted at low income earners.

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READ: Banks’ loans to private sector increase by N3.50 trillion in one year – CBN

On boosting local manufacturing, the apex bank stated, ‘’The programme is designed to utilize at least 90% locally manufacturing inputs and as a result conserve foreign exchange.

“In that regard the programme will deliberately aim to revitalize local manufacture of construction materials including doors and windows, ironmongery, sanitary fittings, concrete products, tiles, glass, electrical fittings/fixtures and bricks etc. for example, it is estimated that the programme will require up to 1.7 m doors, 7m door hinges and locks etc.’’

READ: FG meets group to access AfCFTA’s $650 billion market

The funds, which would be released to the Family Home Funds (FHF) by CBN on a project basis is subject to the cumulative maximum limit of N200 billion. The facility type which would be a term loan is to enable FHF finance the construction of social housing units for low-income earners and is for a 3-year tenor from the date of disbursement.

The facility, which is expected to be repaid in not more than 3 instalments within the tenor of the facility, has an interest rate of not more than 5% per annum.

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Unmarked hotels and short-stay apartments report high occupancy rates during COVID-19

The rise of short stay apartments and boutique hotels point to its profitable business model and financial viability.

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Unmarked hotels and short-stay apartments report high occupancy rates during COVID-19, Hall 7 - Curbing the housing deficit in Nigeria: Hall 7 commissions state of the art residential apartments

It was meant to be a regular end-of-month meeting at a residential estate located in Lekki Phase 1, beside the beach. Residents gathered for their usual monthly meeting and were at the ‘other business’ segment of the agenda when someone spurted out a remark that ignited an uproar in the forum.

To the shock of the Exco members, one of the residents had turned their apartment into a short-stay, breaking the estate bye-laws. The accused resident claimed that it was their only way of surviving amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which had led to a downturn in his regular business. Unknown to other residents, this is not an isolated case in their estate.

Thanks to tech apps like Airbnb, it is now a common feature for most houses that do not deliver the monetary benefits assigned to their income.

The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 lockdown. Most of the major hotels with 3-4-star ratings have shut down their doors for months, resorting to ancillary services such as laundry and private dining to keep the lights on. But while major hotels scavenge to survive, smaller boutique hotels are having the time of their lives.

(READ MORE:COVID-19: Lagos ramps up measure to smash disease as it begins fumigation)

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Hotels without names

Boutique hotels with less than 40 rooms have operated surreptitiously for years, preferring to operate without signboards or brand names, as is the case for their more illustrious majors. For some hotels, they are known to their customers only by the street number. Hotel names like 12, 23, 42 etc., are not uncommon across most major suburbs in Lagos.

This nomenclature for hotels is not surprising to most hospitality experts. They explained to Nairametrics, that most of the hotels were previously residential houses but turned into boutique hotels by their owners, and continue to retain the house number. Some also believe it is a common tactic used to avoid taxes and regulators.

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Converting residential apartments into hotels, or short-stays helps owners make more from room rates than they would if the apartments were rented. This business model has now morphed from boutique hotels to short-stay apartments.

The facilities are also designed to give the home-away-from-home feel, as they cater mostly to business travelers, weekenders, groups, pleasure seekers, adventurers, and many who wish to explore life differently, away from their conventional homes.

These lodging options offer a simple alternative to big-name hotel chains, with the provisions of a variety of convenient in-house self-service amenities. Today, more travelers are choosing to book short-term rentals, rather than stay in hotels.

(READ MORE:Estates in Lekki increase electricity tariff to N105/kWh)

How patrons book facilities

For most of these hotels, their booking channels range from word-of-mouth to a simple online Google search. Some of their customers resort to apps like Airbnb, Hotels.ng, or Trip Advisor to make their bookings. Others go directly into the website of managers of these apartments, and select their preferred cities and spaces, view the amenities, and make payments. Once payment is confirmed, they receive an email and SMS notification of their door access code, and Google maps address to the space. After being checked in, guests simply use WhatsApp or text messages to request concierge services, which are available 24/7.

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According to an owner of such facility, “The idea was conceived when I found that travelers now want the privacy, functionality, flexibility, and comfort of a high-end home, along with the efficiency of hotel services.”

Olajide Abiola, Co-founder and CEO, Smart Residences Ltd, operating as Gidanka, explained that traditional hotels with their limited spaces, and boring repetition of interior decoration have given rise to the demand for better lodging and accommodation options.

“People want to live like locals in new and fascinating neighborhoods, whenever they travel. At the moment, it is an emerging industry in Nigeria, with little competition,”

“Airbnb represents the only competition, but with limitations in that, quality supply on such home-sharing platform, is like a game of Russian roulette, as there are apartments of little quality and uniqueness,” said Abiola.

According to him, his company works with local developers and realtors to design and take out long leases on spaces in neighborhoods determined to be travelers’ and tourists’ preferences, based on research and data analytics.

(READ MORE:Hotel resorts fully booked as middle-class Nigerians spend big for Valentine’s Day )

How they get funds

A source, who pleaded anonymity, because he was not permitted to talk on behalf of House 23, a short-let apartment in a location in Lagos, told Nairametrics that the owners of the apartment secured loans from some banks (undisclosed), to convert the building to short-let apartment standards.

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“Initially, we had challenges with patrons, and that is because the estate management frowned at using the residence for commercial purposes, but the business picked later. Without many publicity tools like signposts or any form of paid adverts, the business has been self-sustaining,” he said.

In the case of Gidanka, which has facilities across four neighborhoods, Abiola said, “We secured N1.07 billion in seed funding, and have been able to lease out properties in four neighborhoods, to provide 86 unique spaces across the Abuja cityscape in the last seven months,”

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“We have hosted travelers from over 12 countries, and have paid 65% of the loan. Interestingly, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, our spaces have seen steady patronage, because of the excellent service reputation earned within the short period. Initially, there was a one-week dip in occupancy rate because of the pandemic, but as the chaos ebbed, the demand normalized, as people sought living spaces that felt like home,”

“There has been steady uptake, and about 30% to 70% month-on-month growth since January 2020, when an additional 28 space units were added. The revenue is steady, ticking up and good,”

“Revenues are made from nightly, weekly, and monthly room rates. We will be cash flow positive before the 4th quarter of 2020, even in the face of COVID-19. Out of the debt raised, 65% has been offset within seven months, which is five months ahead of the moratorium.”

(READ MORE:COVID-19: Hotels.ng partners others to provide self-isolation centres for Nigerians)

Highly Profitable

The rise of short-stay apartments and boutique hotels also points to their profitable business models and financial viability. An operator in a hotel located on Victoria Island informed Nairametrics that apart from the initial one-month lockdown in April, occupancy rates have picked up to pre-pandemic levels.

“Most of our rooms are fully booked sometimes for days,” he explained, preferring to be simply called Femi.

In another hotel in Lekki, the owner told Nairametrics that his major challenge was not having enough rooms. “I wish I could purchase the adjacent building and expand my operations. I lose money I would have easily earned because I have to refer my customers to other hotels,” he remarked.

Sometimes, customers book a day or two ahead just to be assured of a room whenever they need one. Asked who their typical customers are, he maintained that they were mostly young single men with laptops, “I don’t know if they are Yahoo guys, but most of them seem decent and could pass for tech geeks. We also have a lot of married men as customers, even though they hardly sleepover.”

In contrast to the smaller boutique hotels, bigger hotels have all shut down and despite opening recently, still operate skeletally, as Nigerians gradually ease back to work. Most of the hotels are also suffering from a lack of banqueting and physical meetings, which are two major drivers of room occupancy rates.

(READ MORE:Lagos seals off church, others in Surulere, moves against illegal conversion of open spaces)

Challenges

Like other real estates, short-let apartments also have their challenges, ranging from reputation management to irregular power supply.

“When one offers such high quality, efficient, and high standard services that we are offer in an environment where consumers have lost confidence, restoring such can be an uphill task. Therefore, we sometimes have prospective guests, who want to carry out an inspection, just to be sure that the pictures and the amenities on the website are not too good to be true,” Abiola stated.

On the issue of irregular power supply, he said, “People want to be sure they will have continuous power supply at all of our spaces. Most times, we must deliver comfort through alternative power sources.”

In all, there appears to be no barrier to the growth of short-term home rentals. The regulation is still business-friendly because it remains a developing and widely untapped industry.

 

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