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Bamiro: High production cost major challenge of local production

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Bamiro

Babalola Seun Bamiro is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of YNorth Wears, an indigenous fashion brand. He spoke to DEBO OLADIMEJI on challenges of a local producer.

What attracted you to fashion industry?
In 2010 my then girl friend, Dorcas, who is now my wife, bought me a pair of slippers. My friends, including some working in the banks, started to like the slippers. So I called the shoemaker to produce more, about 10 pairs for my friends. Soon, other friends also wanted me to produce similar slippers for them.

I wondered why I should be the one to make customers for the shoemaker. Why doesn’t he make shoes for me and let me sell them? I found out he was putting foreign labels, but I asked and he explained that if he puts his own local label, people would not buy them. But I insisted on local labels. Then I visited supermarkets in Ibadan and convinced them to allow me to sell my slippers while I give them commission on whatever they sell.

They said slippers don’t sell fast, but agreed to give it a try. From there, we supplied to more of such stores and before you know it, we started growing. We later went into different designs of slippers and introduced new brands. After a year we introduced shoes.

You’ve been at it for 10 years; tell us your growth pattern?
This year’s November is going to be our tenth year anniversary. We plan to open up five more stores before the end of the year. We are going to be having like hundreds of outlets. Which is a partnership with the supermarkets. We have close to 50 of such outlets now in Lagos, Ibadan, Osogbo and Ilorin. Indirectly, we use people and technology to manage them.
 
We have online software to see what our workers are doing. We have 75 workers, in production and marketing.

We keep doing researches on how to do it better. We keep trying to understand the business. We are not afraid of the economy.

When we started with YNORTH shoes, our belief was that we were going to introduce shirts and ready to ware native casuals. So that you don’t need to depend on your tailor anymore, just to come to any of our stores and buy what will fit you straight away.

We thank God that we have been able to live up to that dream. We now have native casuals. We are also coming up with boxers, children shirts and pants in the next two months, those will be ready. So we keep introducing more product lines. 

All our products are doing very well in the market. Shirts move faster than shoes. People look at your dressing before they look at your shoes. That means you need to have more of clothing than shoes.

We are currently the largest made-in-Nigeria indigenous fashion brand.

We are trying to introduce perfume and wrist watches by the end of next year. We still want to increase our product line. We do pricing and data analysis to arrive at affordable prices. We have a team that determines the appropriate price tag. We compete favourably with foreign brands.

How do you source raw materials and how useful is Aba to local fashion industry?
Only a few of our leather materials are sourced from Italy, Spain and China. Some of the gums we use come through land borders. They are just small items. We have options for raw materials that are imported.

Most production outfits complain of epileptic power. How do you confront this challenge?
The power issue has affected the cost of production. When it comes to power and production, what is happening is that we have to factor the cost of power into our cost of production, because without power, we cannot work. We want to create an enabling environment for ourselves, so that when the government sees that we are doing on our own, the government will come to assist.

What is your next plan?
We are looking for opportunities to partner with some of these companies in China, to come and establish their business here in Nigeria. That is one of my dreams actually. Instead of me going there to produce, I would like one of the shoe companies in China to come and set up in Nigeria since we have the production capacity.

That can only work with the government coming to our assist. Instead of going to China, they can come here to produce for us. They will be producing for YNorth. It will just be a partnership brand. They will set the machines up.

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I am saying this because it will get to a time when our production capacity will not be able to accommodate what we are pushing. Presently we are producing everything here (locally), but it will get to a point (with our plan) when our production capacity might not be able to take what we need anymore. If we still want to promote local content in what we do, we need partnership with other foreign brands.

The economy has affected my business in a lot of ways.  High production cost, high charges at the ports and poor electricity.

You claim you’re the largest made-in-Nigeria fashion brand?
We search around and we do our due diligence on others in our line of business – wears, but none is close to what we produce. We produce a minimum of 4000-6000 pairs of shoe per month. And our shirts are close to 3000 shirts every month. We are currently producing over 200 ties every month. We have discovered that we are the only one that has that strength, and also we are expanding our outlets. We have many partnership outlets.
 

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