UUU Concierge services in Paris increases its Africa footprint

February 9, 2017

The African market has been underserved by lack of presence in luxury brands in most of the countries. This has prompted an opportunity for concierge services to bridge this gap. There is an ever growing gap between the luxury brands and the African luxury consumers. This demand is being fueled by the ever growing wealthy population in sub-Saharan Africa.

UUU, a concierge series company was started in 2003 in Paris, France by Zakary Chanou who worked in the luxury industry. The company begun more than ten years ago, in Paris and has a global client base.

The dialogue below details Zakary’s focus on Africa and the growth of concierge services:

What is the size of your company, UUU and its operations?

The company has more than twenty thousand partners globally working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, irrespective of the location and the time zone.

Currently UUU has more than 8,000 private customers and 200 corporate clients such as private banks, family, offices, financial institutions, oil and gas companies from all over the world.

How do you acquire new clients from the African market?

I travel a lot to various African countries where I meet potential clients. In addition, we get our clients through referrals and word of mouth from our current clients.

We also look for partnerships that are relevant to our DNA such as private members clubs, luxury marketing companies and other market relevant firms.

With your growing base of African clients does this imply there is less use of digital apps such as Uber or apps that are used to book hotels to flights or diners? Does a concierge service have an impact of digital usage by the African luxury consumer?

Yes, it does. There is a limit to what an application can do in luxury. I can give you a few examples.

Some of our clients want to be picked and dropped at Charles de Gaulle airport in France or at Le Bourget the airport that caters to private jets in France. An app can get you the car to pick you up, but the app cannot do your taxes for you, carry your luggage for you to the check in desk or escort you up to the first class lounge or business class lounge.

This is what we offer our clients: pick up, carry their luggage into the airport, manage their taxes check in the luggage and escort the person to the business class or first class lounge.

If you have a client who wants to spend some time in Paris but doesn’t know where to stay. We provide the information and he or she researches on it digitally. But the next step is ours; to communicate with him, and do all the bookings for him, and ensure it’s a luxury service all the way and VIP welcome everywhere. Therefore, digital will be used mostly to research and communicate but it has its limitations.

There a lot of wealthy Africans who prefer the face to face communication and a tailor-made service. The like that treatment.

There are not many luxury brands represented in most of the African countries except South Africa, with representation in markets such as Nigeria, Angola and Ivory Coast. Does this positon you as a very influential sector to the wealthy African luxury consumer?

Yes it does. A lot of clients rely on us to advise them on where on stay such as private chateaus, or to access limited Hermes Birkin bag, or what timepieces to view. We are their tastemakers, and guide them on what else they can purchase.

Many Africans like bespoke and individualized products, less accessible items, not products that everyone has and is easily accessible. We provide the advice and make the contacts to these stores for the clients.

Luxury products consumption is on the rise and alongside it is the business of luxury services, to be more precise, concierge services. These companies play a role to their clients as opinion formers, experienced tastemakers, and important links between the luxury brands and the clients who purchase from these brands.

Is there significant growth of the African high net-worth and ultra-high net-worth individuals?

Earlier last year, Knight Frank published a report about the wealthy globally. The reports further stated there are various African countries that have and will have significant growth in wealthy individuals.

If you look at Abuja in Nigeria there are 14 Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI). These individuals have more than $30 million in assets. In Johannesburg, South there are 320 UHNWI and there was 83% growth of this category from 2005 – 2015.

Ethiopia is also interesting as it has 11 UHNWI and this grew by 195% in the same years too. Nairobi, Kenya has very significant data with 77 UHNWI which is one of the highest numbers in most sub-Saharan African countries.

The more the increase of the wealthy individuals the more need for concierge services. There are busy people who are very time poor. Also, due to the lack of luxury retail in most countries; thus the greater need for our services.

Is there a focus on collectables?

Many of these individuals purchase collectables such as fine art, wine, cognacs, stamps and & coins, timepieces and jewelry. They want an experienced eye to locate these pieces for them and manage the purchase. Knight Frank stated that 4% of the UHNWI have 4% of their wealth allocations portfolio for these collectables. This is another reason as to why concierge is important.

What are the expansion plans for the African market?

There are plans to open in the Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a country with an ever increasing number of high net worth individuals. We are also looking at markets such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa as part of our business plans.
More people have disposable income in sub-Saharan Africa and feel they need to be taken care through luxury services.

Globally, African customers are in demand for more luxury, bespoke services and exclusive experiences.

Data from Knight Frank 2016 Wealth report

Definition:
MM – Multimillionaires with assets above $10 million
UHNWI –Ultra High Net-worth Individuals with assets above $30 million

By:
Maryanne Maina
Luxury Consultant on Africa
Paris, France
E: Maryanne

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