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Resurgent Edgars seeks to counter ‘cheap imports’ as competition bites

“The larger share of Zimbabwe’s clothing market is serviced by the informal sector – flea markets, Chinese shops, runners, car boot markets and all other types of boutiques,




STREET wisdom dictates that if you cannot beat them, join them!

That’s the dilemma which most formal apparel retailers now face, to compete against cheap imported clothing from as far as China or Turkey.

Not to mention the boot sales and second-hand clothing that have flooded the market.

New Edgars CEO Sevious Mushosho has this less envious job cut out for him.

When he addressed an analyst briefing during the presentation of the company’s year-end financials, many anticipated to hear his grand plan to turn a new leaf on the yesteryear fashion giant, whose fortunes had a taken a dip.

Since 1946, Edgars — previously a unit of South Africa’s Edcon — had grown to be a household name for the once clearly distinct Zimbabwean middle and upper classes.

That all changed over the last decade. Backed by his management team, Mushosho — who was clad in a designer suit which we were later told is part of the new Edgars merchandise — admitted how the Victoria Falls Exchange-listed company had lost ground to competition.

For the flagship Edgars chain, four things are important: offering quality merchandise, exclusivity in supplying trusted and trendy in-house labels, selling genuine international brands like Polo and in-store ambience.

This will help the company claw back the market share it aspires to. In his nearly 20-minute long presentation titled “Rebuilding the walls”, Mushosho said the group will soon unleash an ace to take on lowly-priced second-hand clothing in the country.

He is confident that the re-launched Express chain stores will be a game-changer. Time will tell.

“The larger share of Zimbabwe’s clothing market is serviced by the informal sector – flea markets, Chinese shops, runners, car boot markets and all other types of boutiques,” read one of Mushosho’s slides projected in one of the conference rooms at a local country club.

“This section mainly offers cheap imports from places like China, Tanzania, United Kingdom and Bangladesh. There are several shortcomings faced by players in this space, mainly around quality issues, size curves and in the case of second-hand clothing potential health risk concerns.

“In 2021-22 as Edgars, I must say we dropped the ball. Effectively we were not selling the quality we should have been selling and what happened was that the formal sector—the boutiques, points, towns and cities (downtown). the runners, they took advantage of that. They started going to Turkey and selling garments totally different from what we were selling. They created value for the customer so it became a huge competition to us. But the game changed in 2023 because now we are now competition to them.”

This year, Mushosho added, Edgars plans to roll out 10 Express chain stores across the country and pricing will be key.

The group is looking for an average basket size cap of US$10 and plans to open a wide network of stores covering growth

As part of the group’s broad strategy, the stores, he added will be brick ’n mortar, mobile stores, online store and store within a store.

He said Edgars will also procure some of its footwear from merchandisers as it takes on smaller players. Mushosho, who takes over from Tjeludo Ndlovu, also personified a new wave of leadership renewal led by relatively young female executives.

Ndlovu had been with the group for 11 years, having joined in 2012 as group accountant. She has led the group successfully since 2020 at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the group had lately been facing headwinds, prompting majority shareholder Sub-Sahara Capital Group (SSCG) to effect changes to shore up the struggling apparel retailer. Her second-in-command, Happiness Vundla, who served as chief financial officer, was also pushed out. Mushosho, a former executive of SSCG, was appointed to the Edgars board after SSCG bought the majority stake from South Africa’s Edcon in 2019.

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