Nigeria's fashionistas upset by falling oil prices

By Lucy Fleming
BBC News, Kano, Nigeria


The drop in world oil prices is hitting the fashion-conscious women of Kano hard.

The city in Nigeria's far north is a long way from the oilfields of the south but that has not cushioned it from the fall in the country's main source of income.

"I came to buy a dress," says Halima Sani, a civil servant who drops into a boutique late one afternoon.

"If you could buy two or three formerly, now you cannot even afford one."

The prices at Alhayat Global Synergy women's fashion house in the Sky Memorial Complex have gone up because the Nigerian currency, the naira, has lost 20% of its value in the last three months, as a consequence of the oil crisis.

Ms Sani, wearing a print outfit with matching head wrap, has come to pay the balance on the dress she had previously chosen.

image captionHalima Sani is a regular at Alhayat Global Synergy but says she is not a shopacholic

When she first went to the shop, she thought she had enough money, only to find the price had increased.

"So I needed to go and come back today with the extra money - about 8,000 naira ($40; £26) - it's on the high side," she says.

She admits she is a regular at the shop but stops short of calling herself a shopaholic: "These days you need to get things for your home before thinking of clothes."

'Bitter complaints'

The boutique's owner, Aminu Tanko Kyaure, caters for the city's middle-class fashionistas, importing most of his products from Dubai.

The rolls of material, lace, dresses, jackets, handbags, shoes and jewellery come in containers that take 45 days to arrive from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"Before the naira fell, Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), we were making very good business," he says.

But now the shipping costs from the UAE to Lagos and then 995km (618 miles) by road to Kano have shot up.

"They [the customers] bitterly complain about the prices because last week I bought new products and I had to increase them because I had to include the expenses."

image captionAlhayat Global Synergy is especially busy in the late afternoon when the heat of the day eases

He says he is considering cancelling his forthcoming trip to Dubai because of the currency fluctuations.

Bintu Usman, who owns the Peep and Shop on nearby Maiduguri Road, says she has done just that.

"I usually travel to Dubai and India but I'm unable to travel because of the high dollar - business is down," she says.

"I don't have much stock now as I was unable to travel - for the past three months I have not travelled."

She used to go every six weeks or two months to stock up on clothes, bag and shoes.

Her customers are also unhappy about the escalating prices.

"It's really affecting the business because even right now people aren't coming for the products.

"Something like a bag you were selling at 8,000 naira before is now 12,000 - they can't afford it," she says.

'Online disappointment'

Mr Kyaure says he could order his goods online, which would cut out some of the cost being passed onto the customer.

However, he says it is not an ideal solution.

image captionAminu Tanko Kyaure says the government needs to diversify so it is not so dependent on revenues from oil

"At times you need to go and feel and touch what you want - it will enable you to know the quality of products you want to buy, because at times when you buy online, when the goods arrive you are disappointed."

As the heat goes out of the afternoon, the small shop fills up with more women chatting and trying on different glamorous outfits.

Nigeria's government receives more than 75% of its revenues from oil exports - and in the last six months prices on global markets have more than halved.

"My suggestion to government is that it needs to diversify its source of income and do away with a monoculture economy," says Mr Kyaure before answering a query about a price.

image captionMost of the clothes at Alhayat Global Synergy are shipped in from Dubai
image captionImported bags have also been big sellers

"It affects the entire society because we solely rely on oil and a slight change of oil price on the international market invariably affects society."

Sadiqa Yakub, a microbiology student, agrees as she arrives with a friend to join the browsing customers.

"I'm finding it very difficult," she says.

"For example, yesterday I went to the market to buy a chicken - before, it was about 700 naira and now it's 1200 naira.

"We haven't come here for quite a while," she admits, though she would love to get some new shoes.

"Your budget has to be scheduled again. You have to come up with another plan to manage."

On the fashion front, the devaluation of the naira means you sometimes have to make do with second best, she says.

And for the fashionable shoppers of Kano, second best is just not good enough.

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