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From car boot sales to click sales

Online retail rockets local fashion brand’s sales

Current figures show that online retail accounts for around 1%, or R9 billion, of total retail sales (including groceries) in South Africa. This is expected to grow to 3-4%, or R27 billion, by 2020. But while our shopfronts may be moving online – they continue to overwhelmingly cater toward sample-sized western physiques that fail to resonate with many modern African women.

It is within this environment that home-grown fashion retailer, Plus-Fab, has really taken off.  The company offers fashion and swimwear for plus-size women via online retailers, Superbalist and Zando as well as The Space, which has physical outlets in major shopping centres. 

Owner Ouma Tema was inspired to start Plus-Fab by iconic South African women who were shunned and even ostracized because their physical stature did not conform to the ‘norm’. “We offer fashion savvy, modern-day plus size women clothes that not only fit, but accentuate their curves and more importantly restore confidence. We design and make quality clothing and swimwear that embrace as opposed to cover up curves.  Our motto is ‘not just the right size’,” says Tema.

Having begun by selling clothes from the boot of her car, Tema largely attributes PlusFab’s success to their online presence, saying it has had a huge impact on their bottom line by boosting gross profit margins from 29% in 2018 to 83% in 2019.  “Some of our online retailers order and hold the stock so they carry any risk, which allows my team and I to get on with designing and producing our range to meet their demand,” says Ouma Tema who started the business in 2010.

Tight marketing budgets are no longer a barrier for smaller businesses like Plus-Fab.  Following the merger of Superbalist and Spree, Superbalist is now one of the largest players in online fashion in South Africa.  “With larger online retailers a reality in South Africa, we have access to customers that we would not normally be able to reach without a huge marketing budget.  In addition, most of our customers are social – on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, so we make sure that we are very visible on these platforms and responsive to our customers,” says Tema. 

But their success has not been without its challenges.  “Chinese counterfeiters are a major problem for us.  They steal your designs and literally make them overnight and at a lower price, killing the jobs that we are trying to create and sustain,” says Tema.  The increased footprint of the Plus-Fab range and counterfeit threat has required Tema to allocate significant funds to protect her brand through registering trademarks.  “It’s been important for me to protect my name and brand.”

From the humble beginnings of being self-funded and operating from the boot of her car and then her garage – Tema believes that PlusFab was built upon fearless females.  “Today, we are 100% black owned and we have a fully-fledged production factory that employs 16 people, the majority of whom are women. “You empower a woman and you empower the nation!” concludes Tema who is the product of a single mother and who believes that the future is female. “I believe by empowering women economically, we can reduce the number of women in abusive relationships.”

Ouma Tema is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on Plus-Fab, please visit her website: https://www.plus-fab.com.



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