Distributing to the retail markets of Lagos

I had the opportunity to visit Nigeria recently on a project trip. One aspect of my work was to look at the retail environment in Lagos. In spite of having a population of more than 10 million, still looks largely to the informal sector when it comes to retail.

A different approach to buying products

There are few supermarkets – South Africa’s Shoprite chain, the largest retail chain on the African continent, currently only has two outlets in Lagos. Spar, another South African business, has joined forces with the Nigerian Artee Group, which runs several supermarkets under the Park ‘n’ Shop brand.

There are a number of small neighbourhood stores springing up that may have a freezer chest for items such as poultry, meat, seafood etc, but mainly Lagos’ consumers purchase their food and other consumer goods from open markets and roadside stalls.  Traditional markets tend to have specific sections where certain types of product are sold. Food items, such as poultry, for example, are displayed live and then butchered on-site if the consumer so wishes. Frozen seafood and meat are often sold in small specialist stalls that might have a freezer or, more often, a cool box filled with ice to store the product.

The extremely fragmented and informal nature of retail naturally makes distribution difficult – any business wishing to sell consumer products in this environment needs to consider carefully how it can bring its products to market.