Welcome to the Sports Shoppe – Nairobi, Kenya
By Ellie Matama
The Sports Shoppe is a Kenya-based retail store that sells outdoors and sports products. The store is headed by Mr. C. Gitura, its CEO and owner. Starting this venture was an adventure in itself, since the Kenyan outdoors industry is still in its early stages. This interview seeks to find out what inspired Mr. Gitura to start what some would call a risky venture and what the business entails.
When did you start your business?
We started the business in 2013.
It’s not every day that people decide to go into business supplying outdoors products. What inspired you to do it?
My undergrad degree was in Kinesiology which grew my love for fitness, sport and outdoor sport especially. After college I worked in outdoors and adventure training for the government and what was apparent was the lack of proper equipment.
The little that was available in the market was often too expensive. The only other option was to buy at garage sales, flea markets, or occasionally buy it online and have someone traveling from America or Europe to bring it in for you.
How did you start this business? What steps did you take to get the business up and running?
I first needed some equipment myself. I had to have it imported. I then thought that if I could get bigger quantities, then prices would come down significantly. I asked a few friends and people who either worked in outdoors or sports or were enthusiasts for a list of things they need urgently. That was the first consignment we ever got. It was sold out even before the cargo was in the country. And thus began our business…
How difficult is it to source your products? Do you buy them locally or source them from abroad? If it’s the latter, which countries do you source your products from?
It’s fairly difficult sourcing for equipment because there are not many wholesalers locally. This raises inventory costs and limits the sales volumes that we can reach.
We aim to manufacture locally – that’s the long game for us. We currently manufacture a few special order items locally; most of our products are however, imported. We buy from all around the world, with the U.S. being the gold standard. We also buy from Germany because I have friends and family there who ship me stuff. In addition, we buy from Turkey because their leather and textile products are pretty good, and China because, well, everything’s made in China.
How do you go about selecting new products to carry? How do you determine what to stock for the Kenyan market?
Personal experience for the most part. I know what we need that is not available. But mostly just requests we get from our clients.
What are the most popular outdoors items and brands that you stock and sell?
The most popular items include backpacks, boots, sneakers and tents. Our most popular brands include 5.11, Coleman and Chinese brands.
Could you describe your customer demographic profile?
It consists of both male and female clients, usually from mid- or late-twenties all the way to the late thirties. These clients are usually upwardly-mobile middle-class with a college education, so they understand the importance of an active lifestyle. Our tactical equipment is bought mainly by military and para-military personnel in operation areas; they usually want equipment that the government does not provide such as sunglasses or extras. Lastly we have institutional clients, such as schools who buy games and sports equipment in bigger quantities.
Would you say that you have a profitable business?
Not just yet but we’re headed in the right direction.
What is the average in-store traffic and sales in any given year?
We no longer have a brick and mortar location due to legal tussles with our landlord. For in-store traffic, the matter is still in court. While it was running we’d make two sales a day at the shop out of about ten visitors a day and about three online sales every day. Currently we rely mostly on our institutional clients and military personnel out on operations.
Which online channels do you use to bring in more clients?
We are redoing our website, since it never made many sales. Facebook currently brings in most sales. Instagram works when we have new products.
How often would you say, that you utilize the web and social media for marketing and e-sales? In what form does your advertisement take place online?
Currently all our sales are online. Facebook posts and ads are the main stay of our business. I occasionally contribute content to established websites who link back to us and thus bolster our sales. Other E-commerce sites in the country (Kaymu.com for example) have carried a lot of our products.
Have you seen an improvement in your traffic and sales after advertising online? Is the improvement significant?
There is significant improvement after advertising. We’re at a place where we currently need to allocate a constant e-marketing budget. For our institutional and military clients we have to market to them using alternate below the line methods.
What do you think about the future outlook of the outdoors industry in Kenya? Where do you think it is headed?
I think the future is bright. There’s continued uptake by locals. International participation will continue to drive the industry, with locals being late adopters. Opportunities to take part in outdoor sporting activities in Kenya abound.
They include everything from kite surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling at the coast; rock and mountain climbing, kayaking, rafting and even alpine fishing. We have as much as can possibly be done in this part of the world.
Ellie Matama is a Kenya-based freelance writer that has been writing since 2011. She makes plans to travel around the world.