German shoemaker, Josef Seibel eyes Kenyan middle class with first store

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Josef Seibel, one of Europe’s oldest shoemakers, has opened its first concept store in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | POOL

Josef Seibel, one of Europe’s oldest shoemakers, has opened its first concept store in Nairobi to tap into the growing middle class, with eyes on other African markets in the long term.

For 137 years, the family-owned German company that is located in Hauenstein has manufactured and sold shoes in northern Europe and America.

The Nairobi franchise is its first store on the continent.

The entry of Josef Seibel adds to the number of multinational brands that have set up shop in Kenya in recent years, to seize the bulging number of Kenyans with growing disposable income.

In readiness for entry into Kenya, Joseph Seibel opened a manufacturing plant in Ukunda, Kwale County two years ago where it has been making shoes for export.

Carl August-Seibel, the president of the brand, says Kenya is an exciting and promising economy that suits the brand’s global expansion targets.

“This market is dynamic and people here are willing to spend money on lifestyle products like comfortable quality shoes,” says Seibel.

“We have always concentrated on Europe and the US. With more Kenyans getting richer and having better incomes, we see the growth of the economy here as a way to push our boundaries beyond our traditional markets,” he adds.

The company is also targeting the expatriate community.

Joe Ndung'u, the franchise holder in Kenya, admits that the shoes are pricier, ranging from Sh4,000 to Sh7,000, but notes they are also suitable for the market’s terrain.

Kenya was also chosen as the launchpad to the rest of Africa, with South Africa and Egypt or Morocco coming up in the near future, according to Seibel.

“When we invest money in a country, it is for the long haul. Our model is to develop a culture around our products because success for a family business is not something that comes overnight. You must work twice as hard as other brands,” he explains.

In terms of competition, Mr Ndung'u says their market is targeted rather than general.

“If high net-worth Americans and Europeans get value for money when they shop for footwear, why should Kenyans with money not have the same options?”

Josef Seibel has multiple stores in other world cities such as Copenhagen, London, Oslo, Quebec, and Paris.

In its production plant in Kwale, the company is targeting to increase its capacity from the current 120,000 pairs annually to about 130,000 pairs and to broaden its offerings.

The company is already training local staff to instil shoemaking craft as part of its expansion.

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