Zakaa How To Remain On Top When The Chips Are Down
Nigerian luxury doyen and founder of Hole19 group — which includes watch retailer Zakaa — Deremi Ajidahun shares with WorldTempus the secrets of keeping business thriving even during a global health crisis.
No one expected 2020 to turn out the way it did — which is a bit of an understatement, but many of us, including yourself, definitely had high hopes at the beginning of the year.
We started off the year with the ultra-successful and very enjoyable LVMH Week in Dubai, and I hope 2021 sees the event return. After that, I spent the end of February and March celebrating with my family; becoming a grandfather for the second time. Then, the total world lockdown happened and I got stuck in London. Nigeria closed her borders from February until September, and all Hole19 boutiques, including the Hublot boutique at the Transcorp Hilton, were closed. The Hublot boutique in Nigeria is at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, a 600-room hotel that usually operates at 90 per cent occupancy. The hotel was shut down for several months and reopened in June (the boutique was reopened in August) and is currently operating at around 30 per cent occupancy.
Hublot boutique © Hole19 Group
Despite the circumstances, you still managed to maintain good contacts with your clients and keep sales going. What was your strategy in getting all this done?
We looked out for our customers during the pandemic. For example, for Hublot, we used several novel methods to keep clients engaged and interested in the brand. Firstly, we launched a product-knowledge campaign via social media, where we discussed the brand extensively and key pieces from the brand via Instagram Live and Instagram Stories. Secondly, we made use of WhatsApp direct marketing with specially curated content to entice and entertain our clients.
We also organized Zoom meetings with clients for product showcase and display. The novelties presented in Dubai days were promoted in campaigns across all our platforms: WhatsApp, Instagram and Zoom. We held regular Hublot boutique virtual tours for clients and different incentive packages. Lastly, I got involved directly, keeping in touch with clients with phone calls during the pandemic.
Deremi Ajidahun © Zakaa
Lots of companies had to venture out of their comfort zones and try new things during this period. Can you share with us an example of how you were obliged to think outside of the box when it comes to conducting business?
As a company, of course we have also had to come up with creative quick-thinking solutions to meet client needs, post lockdown. Due to the borders being locked, this also affected logistics. On one occasion we had our Swiss forwarder handle a special delivery. He put someone on a plane with a timepiece for an airside delivery. We arranged collection for the timepiece airside without the person delivering having to enter the country. The flight the transporter came in had a 3-hour turnaround time, so it was crucial that everything came together perfectly. We were able to achieve this through the solid relationships we have developed and maintained over time with our partners.
Although the big events of the past may not really be an option for us right now, that doesn’t mean that face-to-face interactions — so important in the luxury industry — are impossible.
We had a mini brand showcase for 20 people as soon as we were able to do so, post lockdown. We ensured total Covid-19 safety compliance at the showcase while we talked about the brand and interacted with our guests.
How do you think the pandemic has changed the way that business is done in Nigerian? Of course, you can best speak from your own experience and example.
Well, we were able to continue our lockdown strategies post lockdown, which was an advantage. Nigeria experienced anti-government protests in the post-lockdown period, which forced people to stay home even though the lockdown was lifted. These protests didn’t have a drastic impact on the business because we had already been able to transition away from traditional brick and mortar model of shopping. That said, this is still a very important part of our shopping experience as customers enjoy shopping in-store and being able to have a glass of champagne or a coffee, as part of the total luxury experience. The ability to still apply our lockdown strategies have kept us in touch with clients and maintained our relationship with them.