Luxury lingerie-maker to open shop in Nairobi

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A luxury Austrian lingerie maker is set to open shop in Nairobi this Friday, becoming the latest global fashion brand seeking to cash in on Kenya’s rising number of middle class shoppers.

Palmers, which also sells home wear and swimming gear, has planned to open its first African outlet at the Village Market.

The 100-year-old company headquartered in Vienna, Austria, has further plans to open three more shop-in-shop boutiques at the Junction, Yaya Centre and at the Serenity Spa in Gigiri early next year.

GROWING MIDDLE CLASS

“Nairobi is an advancing market with a growing middle class and there are not many lingerie shops but many fashion-interested customers,” Manuela Korber, Palmer’s international area manager, said in an interview.

The lingerie shop has partnered with Tim Redo, an Albanian who has lived in Austria for many years and is currently based in Nairobi.

Spanish clothing retailer Zara entered the Kenyan market in July while South Africa-based retail chains Foschini and Edgars are to open outlets at the upcoming Garden City Mall, reflecting the growing local interest by foreign luxury brands.

“We want to provide easy access to wonderful seductive and comfortable lingerie to all ladies in Nairobi. We are happy to provide our highest-level quality and the perfect fit,” added Korber.

Palmers, which has in the past courted controversy through its advertisements, is currently one of the largest lingerie boutiques in Europe and around the globe with a store count of 300.

Its business is currently spread across 14 countries including Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia, Qatar, Estonia, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Cypress, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldavia among several others.

Palmers plans to open new stores in Slovakia and Turkmenistan soon after the Nairobi launch.

YOUNG CUSTOMERS

Palmers rebranded nine years ago seeking to connect to a younger customer base it was losing to competitors like H&M and Victoria’s La Secret, other well-known multinational clothing companies.

Their eyes in Kenya are focused on upmarket and middle class customers, given their choice of location for their maiden store as well as the ones to be set up in 2015.

Village Market is normally frequented by wealthy and middle-income shoppers, diplomats and residents of the neighbouring Runda estate.

“The layout, interior design and customer’s footfall and the nearby UN site make Village Market shopping centre a particularly interesting location for us,” said Palmers.

International luxury brands are flocking to Kenya positioning themselves to exploit the growing appetite for the finer things in life — ranging from clothes to shoes and drinks — fuelled by a swelling middle class with higher spending power.

The number of Kenyans classified as middle class has doubled in the last decade to almost a fifth of the population or 6.5 million.

In a report titled ‘The Rise and Rise of the African Middle Class‘, Deloitte says Africa is not impervious to new global trends and influences that are fast shaping consumer behaviours and consumption patterns.

These economic realities have seen US-based global fashion houses Calvin Klein, Timberland and Tommy Hilfiger eye space in Kenya’s planned Textile City, which is to be set up in Athi River.

Deacons, the leading clothing chain in the region, has launched Bossini, a worldwide garment distributor and retailer label, based in Hong Kong, into the market with new stores in Yaya Centre and Village Market.