Local leather producer targets wider market with Amazon

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Bereng Mpaki

LEATHER goods manufacturer, Jalad Africa, has struck a deal to list its products on global electronic commerce platform, Amazon to supply the United States (US) market.

The company has already shipped the first trial consignment of goods to the Amazon warehouses in the US for faster delivery to clients in that country.

While the company has sold its goods to individual US customers, listing on Amazon will allow it to supply the US market in greater quantities.

As of January 2022, Amazon had 2154 distribution centres across the globe. Amazon operates fulfillment centres outside of the United States in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Japan, India and Australia.

Jalad Africa co owner Lebeoana Matsimase receiving best exporter award from US Embassy Chief d affaires Keisha Toms Boutaleb and Ministry of Trade PS Francis Sefali

The development is coming hard on the heels of the company’s Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC)’s 2022 Exporter of the Year Award in June 2022.

Jalad produces the Zeri brand of leather goods. Its goods enter the US market duty free with the help of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade concession.

With six employees at its modest Upper Thamae production base, the company manufactures high-quality hand-crafted leather goods like handbags and laptop bags among others.

The company imports its leather inputs from Ethiopia, whose prices are more competitive.

In an interview with Lesotho Times, Jalad co-owner, Lebeoana Matsimane said listing on the Amazon platform would increase their exports to the US.

“We are going to be listed on Amazon to have our goods traded on the platform,” Mr Matsimane said.

“All the relevant contracts have been signed, and we have shipped the first consignment on the US on trial basis. We are preparing to ship the second consignment of our products to the US.”

In the past, the company would ship its products to individual clients through a courier, which took longer, and Mr Matsimane said he was confident the Amazon deal would shorten their delivery times.

“We have a working relationship with DHL, for anybody who wants to buy our products from outside South Africa. This takes several days to reach the customer due to the long distance.

“You place an order, then we give you the price and ship the ordered goods. We have been selling our products this way to clients from different countries like Canada, Ireland, and the US among others.”

The company has sold its goods to individual clients based in Canada, Ireland, South Africa and the US among others. It has been using couriers for doorstep deliveries for its South African clients.

“But Amazon works differently. They do not list any products if they do not have them in their warehouses since turnaround time is important for them. So, trading through Amazon will make our goods reach customers faster.

“So far we have been selling our products to individuals in the US. But the Amazon deal will entail us shipping products in bulk. The deal will facilitate a structured exporting approach to the US. The shipment to US will be done by DHL.

Mr Matsimane said their dream was to grow the Zeri brand to become a global company which the country takes pride in.

“If there is anything that we want to accomplish with our brand, it is that when a Mosotho finds on the streets of any country around the world to feel proud of it.

“We want to change the narrative around Lesotho so that when you meet somebody and you tell them that you are from Lesotho, they can say that’s where Zeri is made from. We must link success stories with Lesotho.”

Established in 2018 by Mr Matsimane and Masupha Moshoeshoe, the company’s products have been showcased in top international trade exhibitions such as the Source Africa Expo and SAITEX.

Mr Matsimane said the company was inspired by Ethiopia’s sprawling leather industry, Africa’s largest. He was exposed to Ethiopia’s fledging leather industry while living in that country where his wife works at the Africa Union (AU) headquarters.

“The Ethiopian leather sector is dominated by many small producers. Most of them do not have proper production sites but their products are of exceptional quality.

“But here at home, we think you need to have vast resources to produce quality. The Ethiopians instead produce in small structures and achieve high-quality,” he said.

When the business started, the company’s target was women, but the dynamics have shifted and now men are buying more than women, Mr Matsimane said. Most of the buyers purchase laptop bags, backpacks, and side bag.

“There seems to be a lot of appetite from the males than we had anticipated,” Mr Matsimane said.

 

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