If brands want to conquer new markets they have to understand the culture and the local customers. And to convey this knowledge is the ambition of Hardy McQueen who also founded the urban- and streetwear tradeshow STR.CRD in Johannesburg some years ago. After discontinuing the fair, McQueen has started a new initiative called TrendSafari, a tour that takes non-African brands through the main capitals of the continent to learn more about local consumers and what non-African brands should do in order to enter the market. We chatted with Hardy McQueen about what brands need to know and do before starting business in Africa and his plans to launch new tradeshows next year.

Hardy, you don’t do STR.CRD any longer. Does this mean that the whole event dies or does it mean that you just quit the organization?

Unfortunately, it means the whole event dies.



Why did you decide to stop it?

Different partner goals and lack of sustainability. Though the event was important for South Africa to be recognised as a viable territory for brands, various failings within our business model meant that the whole project then was unsustainable.

You have recently started TrendSafari. Why did you start this and what’s the target group for this? Is it still Streetwear focused?

TrendSafari comes out of a realisation that before brands can set foot in Africa, they need a clear understanding of the market and culture. There needs to be clear differentiation between various African countries and cities to determine real hyper-local marketing.

What happened so far? Who or which brands have already joined you with TrendSafari so far?

We have toured some of the major capitals with a few brands heading to Accra, Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi, Johannesburg. In 2017, we have tours planned to Abidjan, Luanda and Kigali.

TrendSafari comes out of a realisation that before brands can set foot in Africa, they need a clear understanding of the market and culture.

Hardy McQueen


What are the main things brands should know when they want to conquer the African continent?

Our main purpose is for brands to understand that we are all different across the continent. What works in South Africa, does not necessarily translate to Kenya. They need to understand that we have an educated consumer on the continent, so the same quality and value placed on a European or American consumer needs to translate on our side.

What barriers must be overcome in terms of culture and the economy?

First of all a hands-on approach is required. Brand value is brand value no matter where you are. The respect Brand X has in London or New York is the same for the consumer on the continent. Culture is only relevant when a brand engages authentically locally and this includes to have real local teams. Economically there are various challenges but this does not affect the respect factor for the brands.

And how can brands start business in Africa? Do they need distributors etc.? What’s the retail landscape like in terms of multibrand, monobrand, retail chains…? What advice and expertise can you give those starters?

I suppose by doing a TrendSafari is the first step. Get to know and gain a working level of local understanding. Retail is growing across the continent, though in South Africa we are going through a downturn. Distributors are great initially, but we all know that they don't bring the marketing spend and required nuances. The lessons as everywhere else are the same i.e. infiltrate the culture, build influence, execute great marketing and offering for the consumer.

Retail is growing across the continent, though in South Africa we are going through a downturn. Distributors are great initially, but we all know that they don't bring the marketing spend and required nuances.

Hardy McQueen


You said that you are launching a new tradeshow in the next 2 years. What are your plans? Can you give us more details?

We are launching 3 new shows in 2017. These will take place in South Africa for the start, then brand out to other cities across the continent. These targeted shows will include men's, female and youth, as a portal for brands to launch and build strong bases. Our focus will include a strong B2B element as a way of brand introduction in market beyond distributor activity. More information will follow after Winter shows in Europe.



From the archives:

Hardy McQueen, founder and creative director of STR.CRD tradeshow in Johannesburg

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