Retail is a difficult market. Regardless of where you are in the world, the primary factor that this sector hinges on, is public interest and liquidity.
But with the war on Ukraine, many moving parts of the economy have come to an unpredicted standstill and other essentials have risen in cost. With all this happening, it is then a wonder that the Cotton On Group has chosen to take a giant leap with expanding their presence in Botswana.
The flagship store opened its doors to the Gaborone public in May of 2019, having initiated canvassing in 2018. With Airport Junction having been one of the city’s newer malls at the time, the choice of location was a starting play toward ensuring that not only was there a store but it was where people wanted to be. When Airport Junction started operating in 2012, it gave residents of the northern parts of Gaborone an alternative to its competitors in the southern and eastern areas of the city. The property, which cost P469 million to build, has proven to be an attractive home for the Australian retail group as they recently launched two new stores for its visitors.
While Cotton On is a store that stocks clothes for people of all ages and accessories to boot, the two additions are markedly complementary with their market focus. On one end, Factorie seeks to keep fashionistas up to date with the latest threads while Typo gives everyone the opportunity to express their quirkiness through pop culture influenced stationery, accessories and décor. Speaking on the occasion of the launch of the new imprints, Natalie Wills, Country Manager for Africa, lauded Botswana’s accommodative business landscape, stating that “bringing new stores here felt like a natural progression based on the way we have been welcomed here”.
Calvin Ketshabetswe echoed the country’s willingness to partner with a brand that is community-focused when he gave his remarks on behalf of Botswana Trade and Investment Centre in his capacity as the Manager of Export Promotion, adding that they “are now in the process of facilitating the inclusion of environmentally-conscious local products in Typo since there’s been interest shown”. Wills was frank about the difficulties that they have faced in the advent of the global pandemic but praised the consistency of their patrons and staff who have ensured that such an investment could be made. When Fifi Mathambo, the host for the launch and a long-time collaborator with the Group, said “we’re excited to welcome you all to the family”, she was laying the path for similar sentiments from Wills and other speakers.
True to the building of family, when it came time to identifying new managerial staff, two foundational staff members shone through as natural fits. Jacqueline Mokgethi and Peter Ramokwena take the helm as store managers of Typo and Factorie respectively, both having started at Cotton On as Sales Associates under the stewardship of Tshegofatso Mosala in 2018. Mosala was but one of the many women in leadership who were spotlighted during the launch. Wills announced the first Cotton On Foundation partner project in Botswana with The African Women Leadership Academy (TAWLA), which is another concrete example of the Group’s commitment to playing their part in advancing the country’s development.
For her part, TAWLA’s founder, Dr Mpho Gilika, wasn’t short of praise and gratitude for being chosen for this maiden venture. Gilika’s academy for young girls and women is aimed at levelling inequalities that may be rooted in low self-esteem, economic disenfranchisement or educational stunting. The programme sponsored by the Cotton On Group will see 35 mentees (mainly secondary school students) and 35 mentors undergoing leadership training aimed at character building while also engaging 35 alumni to strengthen the network Gilika has been building since TAWLA’s inception in 2010.
It is not impossible to imagine that this triad might thrill shoppers in Botswana. One particular benefit is how easy each of the stores makes the process of gifting. So, whether one is looking to turn heads, run with the times or express any emotion on the spectrum, the Cotton On Group has managed to square up the game. Here’s to looking toward having more local merchandise in their stores so it really feels like family and home.