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Samson Ajibade pushed against the statistics by opening a new retail space in the height of the coronavirus crisis and changed the game by injecting a sense of youth into the clothing retail space.
In the heart of the trendy streets of Cape Town, lies the ultra cool INFLUHKS store with an array of young designers such as FLUX, BROKE, ARTCLUB & FRIENDS, LAZY STACKS, KING ON HORSES, KAZARD, BIGTYNSONLY and BRUNCH CLUB who have an abundant flair for self-expression and attitude.
For someone to open a store during a time when everyone is venturing online takes a certain level of guts and bravado which Samson has displayed.
“The name INFLUHKS came about in an amusing way,” said Ajibade. “While I was researching migration, I came across the word influx and somehow felt a connection and held on to it. INFLUHKS was founded and born out of the pandemic after I was retrenched from my then-current job. INFLUHKS is an experiential retail space which is at the intersection of fashion, music, art, nightlife and overall expression of youth culture. Our main goal is to support local brands & creatives as much as we can,” he continued.
Supporting young designers and brands
In these economic times, it is important to buy locally made clothes, especially young designers and brands. The influx of cheap and fast fashion from China, Bangladesh and other low-cost manufacturing countries has made it challenging for our local brands.
With the budding retailer understanding the importance and principle of encouraging and supporting young talent, he put his money where his mouth is and placed their clothes in his store.
“Our goal and motto is ‘SUPPORT LOCAL BRANDS’ and that’s why we believe when you purchase a piece from an emerging designer or local brand, you are investing in a luxury garment, but for a fraction of the price of a designer garment from a big name brand,” said Ajibade.
“The so-called big names are local brands in other countries, why not support our own and get them to the world stage? Also with local brands, you are getting unique or sometimes even one-of-a-kind custom-made pieces that aren’t mass produced. This is why we help with organizing pop-ups for these designers/brands. Sometimes we sell items on consignment at a minimal fee so that they can grow,” he continued.
With the busy lives we live as well as a two-year lockdown, online retail has become the go-to place for individuals on the move. The rise of Takealot and Superbalist is proof that e-commerce in this country is here to stay.
Samson’s ability to diversify into the e-commerce space shifts the narrative that young people can own the online retail space and thrive.
“The Pandemic has changed consumer behavior in many ways, there is a huge shift toward e-commerce and many people started shopping online for the first time during the pandemic, which suggests that online shopping is an essential element in retail strategy. Many businesses including brands we sell depend on it for success. BROKE for example uses INFLUHKS as the fulfillment center of their online sales,” said Ajibade.
Tribulations and triumphs in the time of Covid-19
The impact of the coronavirus lockdown was one of the leading contributing factors to the recession, globally with small businesses being even more affected. Samson shares the highs and lows of operating during the pandemic.
“Owning a business post-pandemic has been a daunting task. Thankfully our landlord has been fair with the rates, but that didn’t mean we didn’t struggle. We have managed to survive by constantly trying to better our numbers every month. As a businessman and creative I have learned to be prepared for the hard times, optimize my cash flow, cut expenses, and encourage collaboration. This is part of the reasons why I took on a business partner, keep the business flexible and agile, and create multiple revenue sources. As an example, we started our own Cut, Make and Trim (CMT) which manufactures clothing for other brands” said Ajibade.
The next chapter
What can we expect from the game changer do you ask? Ajibade simply said, “You can expect more collaborations and more retail spaces in different countries. The Nigerian version of the store is happening for sure. We want to create more spaces for local brands to showcase their creations”.