AFRICANGLOBE – Angola’s deep-pocketed elites are a boon for luxury retailers in recession-struck Portugal, where the central bank in January predicted a further drop in consumer spending for 2013.
Though the impact of the eurozone crisis can be felt in many other quarters of the city, a stroll down one tree-lined avenue in the heart of Lisbon shows an apparent reprieve from any economic troubles.
A lot has changed in the 150-year history of Avenida da Liberdade. Historically a favoured address of the Portuguese upper class, it eventually became a street of offices and hotels until, in hard times, several turn-of-the-century buildings were left abandoned.
Now, brands such as Gucci, Prada and Zadig et Voltaire have moved in – planners expect Cartier, Miu Miu and others to open their doors this year.
The luxury retail market is booming, thanks in no small part to a rising influx of Angolan businesspeople and their families coming to hunt down Louis Vuitton handbags and Tom Ford sunglasses to take back to Luanda.
“Our Angolan custom has grown 90% in the past 12 months – that’s 58% of total market share,” says Filipa Pinto-Coelho, marketing director for Gucci in Portugal as well as for Fashion Clinic, a multi-brand concept store that just opened its men’s shop on the avenue.
“We feel they trust us in our lifestyle and fashion suggestions. Lisbon is a very nice market for them because we are, of course, cultural partners – that helps our status as their top destination for luxury shopping.”
Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos, has been a key player in Portuguese investment since 2008 and has major stakes in national conglomerates and firms including retail company Sonae, Portugal Telecom, Galp Energia and Banco Português de Negócios.
Her fortune in Portugal amounts to an estimated €1.4bn ($1.9bn) and the trickle-down effect for the capital’s retail scene has been massive.
“There’s a new trend in Lisbon where high street retail is developing,” says Carlos Recio, an associate director at real estate firm CBRE Portugal.
“Some of the retailers that used to operate only in shopping centres are now looking to the high streets because in certain areas they have become interesting. There is huge footfall, and there is a specific kind of customer you can find there – in this case, Angolans with high incomes”
By: Syma Tariq