Cross-hemisphere trade between Australia and South Africa has been taking place for some time now, with Australian retailers setting up shop in South Africa, as well as South-African retail behemoths buying up Australian brands. South-African brands, on the other hand, have been a bit more cautious about entering the Australian market.
But in November, TFG chose to make a splash in the Australian market with its jewelry retail brand AmericanSwiss, opening five stores simultaneously — one in Sydney, two in Melbourne and another two in Brisbane. A sixth store in planned by the end of the year.
AmericanSwiss chief executive officer Anthony Thunstrom said, “Our own modeling suggests that if the six stores work, we can get up to well over 100 of those stores in Australia and if it works in Australia, it can work elsewhere.”
Australia presented an attractive market for TFG; the sub-Saharan African market, it was felt, had weak economies that could limit the potential growth of its local brands. The TFG portfolio consists of 28 brands in 32 countries, mostly in Africa. The arrival of AmericanSwiss was intended to test whether TFG’s brands could thrive in a more developed consumer market.
AmericanSwiss was established in 1896 by Isaiah Hirschsohn, who arrived in Cape Town with watches filled with American and Swiss watches. He called his first store at the foot of Table Mountain, The American Swiss Watch Co., which soon was shortened to AmericanSwiss. He expanded its offerings to include gold, diamonds and other precious gems.
In 1924, TFG acquired AmericanSwiss. Its retail network consists of 242 stores throughout southern Africa, making it the largest watch and jewelry boutique chain on the continent. TFG reported half-year results in September. Group turnover grew by 28.6 percent to 15.9 billion South-African rands, or $1.14 billion, while headline earnings per share rose to 506 cents, up from 467.1 cents a year earlier.
Online is an increasingly important retail channel for TFG; the company launched its e-commerce platform myTFGworld.com in South Africa to better serve the needs of its 13.4 million customers.
In Australia, AmericanSwiss offers customers online shopping with in-store pickup options. The AmericanSwiss stores are located at retail complexes in key cities: Sunshine Plaza and Robina Town Centre in Brisbane, Highpoint Shopping Centre and Pacific Werribee Shopping Centre in Melbourne, and Macarthur Square in Sydney.