There was considerable excitement in the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, when Italian lingerie brand Yamamay, known for its racy but sophisticated styling and accessible prices, opened its first store on the African continent last month. The 1,076-square-foot, ground-floor space joins Yamamay’s network of more than 700 stores worldwide.
Opening in time for spring in the Southern Hemisphere, the store carries lingerie and sleepwear from the spring 2019 collection, as well as the CR7 underwear collection by Cristiano Ronaldo. The swimwear range is expected to be available soon, in time for summer.
John Kainga of Yamamay South Africa owns the franchise for the country. He felt that Menlyn Park “offers world-class shopping, dining and entertainment experiences and is home to some of the world’s biggest and most desirable brands, making it the perfect location for the first South African flagship.” He noted that the store opening “was hugely successful, with many patrons queuing to purchase their favorite Yamamay apparel.”
While most international brands would opt to enter the market through a Johannesburg or Cape Town store location — Sandton City and Hyde Park Corner are the top two premium malls in Johannesburg, while the V&A Waterfront and Cavendish Square are considered the most upmarket ones in Cape Town — Menlyn Park has certainly upped the retail game in Pretoria. After undergoing redevelopment that cost 2.5 billion South African rands, or about $164 million, it is now the biggest mall in Africa with a gross leasing area of about 1.9 million square feet, making it attractive to many international brands. In addition to Yamamay, Menlyn Park is home to several intimate apparel stores, including the Australian fashion lingerie retailer Bras N Things, Calvin Klein Underwear and La Senza. Anchor tenants, such as department stores Woolworths and Edgars, also carry a selection of underwear and sleepwear.
When asked what differentiates Yamamay from its competitors within the mall — the price points and styling are similar to Bras N Things — Kainga said “our mission is to enter the heart of every Yamamay woman and we hope to do that by offering a store with an emotional and engaging environment, a world where women (and men) can truly benefit from Italian excellence and style.”
With many international brands downsizing in South Africa, if not leaving altogether — Top Shop, Nine West and Mango are among the high-profile brands that have closed shop in recent years — the arrival of Yamamay as a freestanding store outside of the department store or multibrand store format is significant, particularly in a segment of the market that would appear to be already well-served.
Catherine Trope, who brought the Austrian premium intimate apparel label Wolford to South Africa in 2007 with a store in Hyde Park Corner, said that “there is a limited number of people in South Africa with spending power and the market can only support a finite number of brands. I don’t think this issue is related to lingerie brands specifically, there are many international brands that have not come into South Africa and a few have even pulled out.”
Wolford is not the only high-end lingerie retailer in Hyde Park Corner, but it is the only monobrand one. The French Shop is a longtime tenant in the center, specializing in luxury lingerie from Europe with brands such as Lise Charmel, Hanro, Chantelle and Miss Rosy. Le Corset, on the other hand, moved to Hyde Park Corner after many years in nearby Illovo Square. Owner Yolanda von Tonder of Taxi Blu Pty. Ltd. is the sole importer of the La Perla line, which is sold alongside Princesse Tam Tam and Pain du Sucre. She acquired the two French lingerie and swimwear brands in 2014.
Despite the presence in South Africa of more affordable lingerie brands, Trope believed that “when top-end lingerie brands add value to the product, there is always a market for them.” She said Wolford was “continuously implementing their research and development and have come out with unique bras that have silicone instead of underwire, which provide great, healthy support with complete comfort.”
Gianluigi Cimmino, chief executive officer of Pianoforte Holding, which owns the Yamamay brand, said “Yamamay’s introduction to the South African market is not only a significant step for the brand’s international footprint, but also brings South African consumers the calibre of international fashion they deserve.”
A spokesperson for Yamamay in Italy confirmed that agreements have been concluded to open three more stores in the country.
“We will be opening a second flagship store at Cresta Shopping Centre in November this year, as well as another two stores at Sandton City in Johannesburg and the Pavilion in Durban, respectively, both of which are expected to open before the end of 2020. We are also eyeing opportunities to take Yamamay into the rest of Africa in the not too distant future,” she said.