MAC Cosmetics Expands Presence in Africa

The brand will open its first freestanding store in Lagos, Nigeria, on Saturday, on the heels of launching other units in Zambia and Botswana.

A rendering of the first MAC store in Nigeria.

MAC Cosmetics is determined to conquer a new continent — Africa — by entering a trio of new countries and planning a three-year strategy to build business.

This story first appeared in the February 1, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The brand will open its first freestanding store in Lagos, Nigeria, on Saturday, on the heels of launching other units in Zambia in December and Botswana in early January.

The Lagos store, which the company is doing in partnership with Essenza Co., will be located in the Ikeja City Mall. A second MAC store is planned for The Palms Mall in Lagos later this year, and within three years, the city may be home to as many as five MAC stores. The capital city of Abuja will be next, followed by Nairobi, both within the first three years MAC is in Nigeria, noted Karen Buglisi, global brand president for MAC Cosmetics. “Each market we enter will have to have the ability to support multiple stores,” she said.

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While MAC has been successful in its 22 doors in South Africa for more than a dozen years, the untapped potential of sub-Saharan Africa was highlighted by William P. Lauder, executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and MAC’s parent company, at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in November.

Nigeria is an especially attractive market given that it is the most populated country in Africa, with approximately 166.6 million residents, noted Buglisi. About 17 million people live in Lagos, and as a bonus, cosmetics consumers in Nigeria are very brand-loyal, she said.

As well, despite the fact that MAC isn’t yet sold in Nigeria, the brand has tremendous awareness from the wealthy Nigerians who purchase it in Paris, London and New York, Buglisi said.

“MAC has always been a trailblazer in emerging markets — India, Brazil and Turkey, for example,” said Buglisi. “We believe that the breadth of our product line, particularly in foundation shades, and our pricing will appeal to the Nigerian market, as well other African markets.” For instance, she noted, the brand’s Studio Fix Foundation is available in 50 shades, including very dark shades, and the formula is humidity-resistant. Visuals in the stores will feature black models.

Buglisi is also looking to install a resident trainer and a senior makeup artist, who will also serve as a media spokesman, in the market within the next 12 to 18 months; until then, employees from South Africa will get things set up.

“We will have a full menu of services,” she said, noting this has been true of each of the brand’s entries into emerging markets. “We want customers to be able to go to any market in the world and have a seamless service experience, and we will provide top-notch education to make this happen. We want to go in to Africa boldly and say, ‘We’re here.’”