Throwback Thursday: Departmental stores in the 60s, 70s, 80s in Nigeria

By Abimbola Mohammed

The 1960s, 1970s and 1980s departmental stores helped to transform the shopping experience of Nigerians. They did this by making it easier for consumers to find what they were looking for as well as increase product visibility.

Department stores were one of the most popular places shoppers could go to get their hands on the latest fashion trends or find gifts for loved ones. The department store was also a social gathering place where people would go to eat lunch, window shop and meet up with friends.

These department stores opened during a time when there weren’t many other shopping options available to consumers. Some factors that led to the growth of these stores in Nigeria back then was their product assortment. Due to changing consumer demands, these department stores merchandise evolved from strictly fashion goods and home furnishings to include a wider variety of goods such as sporting goods and other household items.

Secondly, most department stores differentiated themselves by how they got customers through the door. This was done by installing escalators just like Kingsway did in the 70s in some of their stores in Nigeria.

Here are some of the stories that made shopping exciting in 60s, 70s and 80s in Nigeria:

Kingsway Store: Kingsway was the first modern departmental store established in British West Africa. It was established in 1948, the headquarters was in Lagos. It was set up by the United African Company (UAC), in a building formerly used by Lagos Stores. The firm had stores across major cities in the country including a three-storey store at Ibadan. The stores initially provided access to consumer goods found in departmental stores of foreign countries, but over time, the majority of its SKUs were procured in Nigeria. UAC had planned to run the chain across West Africa; but of the original stores established in Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, only the store in Lagos lasted long enough to become profitable (which it did in the 1960s). Towards the end of the 1980s, price and currency regulations and a downturn in the economy forced the closure of many stores and eventually the closure of Kingsway Stores.

Domino store: Domino store was established in 1964, it provided a great opportunity for many citizens to have a taste of the good life, expanding rapidly to other parts of the country in the process. However, different economic policies adopted by successive administrations in Nigeria affected these brands in no small measure, hampering their growth and grip on market share. The store shut down many of its branches, leased out the properties and was left with two stores; the one on 282 Herbert Macaulay Street and 17A commercial Avenue, Yaba. Things became more difficult and the stores were reduced to one because it became more commercially viable to lease out properties. About seven years ago, the property on 282 Herbert Macaulay was leased out, while the store on Commercial Avenue was retained, although relocated.

Leventis store: The First outlet of the Leventis Stores was opened in Marina Lagos in 1965. It grew among many stores, soon after; many more stores were opened such as Benin, Calabar, Abuja, Owerri, Kano, Kaduna and Maiduguri etc. Leventis stores were a name synonymous with quality and affordable household commodities. It grew into a household name where products were sorted out by both the medium earners and high earners. The enormous provision of job opportunities by the Leventis group was second to none. Leventis stores dominated the Nigerian consumer goods formal retail market in the 1980s alongside the likes of Kingsway and UTC.

Recall that in 2018 Leventis in a press brief in Abuja that will return to Nigeria before the end of that year. At a media briefing session at Leventis Foundation Nigeria, Mr. Mantey, who is also Non-Executive Chairman of the A.G. Leventis group, disclosed that the first two new stores would be opened in Lagos. He added that A.G. Leventis has made a partnership with a South African company called Pick and Pay in light of making the return to retailing a reality.

United Africa Company (UAC): The United Africa Company of Nigeria is a Nigerian publicly listed company based in Lagos. Its areas of operation include manufacturing, services, logistics and warehousing, agricultural and real estate. UACN’s food operations include UAC Franchising, UAC Restaurants and UAC Dairies. It also has an equity stake in UACN Property Development Company, a quoted firm, CAP Plc, makers of Dulux paints and Portland Paints, manufacturers of Sandtex paints.

Bata Shoe: Bata opened the first store in Nigeria in 1932, a few years later a network for purchasing of raw materials was added. In 1965, a modern shoe factory was opened. In 1932, the first Bata shop was opened in Lagos. Since 1935, Bata organization has operated in the town of Kano, where it developed in the following years, the purchase network for redemption of leather, rubber and cotton. In 1938, the firm had 9 stores in Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Abeokuta, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Benin City, Onitcha. In the 1940s, a directory of Bata companies recorded the company’s office in Lagos; in 1947 Nigerian outlets were modernized. In 1965, the new Bata footwear factory started production. Cortina shoe is one of the shoes produced by Bata and back then those shoes made history. Though the company still operates but is kind of silent.

UTC Nigeria PLC: UTC was established in Nigerian in 1932 and was formerly registered as a limited liability company in 1968; it sold shares to the public in 1971. A conglomerate, it had divisions in agriculture and engineering such as UTC Stores that was a chain of Supermarkets, UTC Motors, Dorman Long, Amalgamated Metal Containers, Imo Hills Ltd and UTC Industries. In 1994, the company divested the non food processing divisions to concentrate on its food processing business, marketing brands such as Chopsy, Bell and champ. The supermarket sells fresh meats, sausages, hams, bacon, bread confectioneries and wrapped sausages. The Company markets its products under the Bell, Champ and Chopsy brands, and distributes them throughout Nigeria. The Company is a subsidiary of Union Trading Company Basel Switzerland.


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