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Updated 30 Sep 2020

Nic Haralambous on why real growth still happens in the ‘real’ world

Nic Haralambous started his successful Nic Harry sock business online. To truly accelerate growth, though, he had to open up a physical retail store.  

GG van Rooyen, 07 December 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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Nic Haralambous started his Nic Harry sock business on a shoestring.

In fact, he gave himself a limit of R5 000 for the start-up, which meant that setting up a physical retail store was out of the question. So, Haralambous set up an online store, which exceeded his expectations in terms of success and popularity. Haralambous was soon selling thousands of socks online.

Related: 3 steps to increasing your sales conversion rate


True, ecommerce is here to stay, but don’t underestimate the importance of still having a physical store. In a country such as South Africa, the vast majority of retail business still happens in the ‘real’ world.    

Nic -Haralambous -socks

It might seem surprising, then, that Haralambous decided a while ago to create a physical Nic Harry retail store in Cape Town. Why, after all, would you want to go through the hassle of creating a physical outlet if you’re enjoying steady online sales?

“You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a physical retail space,” says Haralambous.

“The Nic Harry website is successful, but the Cape Town store is still outperforming it by a factor of four or five. Most retail business, especially in an emerging market such as South Africa, still happens in the physical world.”

But what if you can’t afford – or simply don’t want – a physical store? How do you grow an online business? According to Haralambous, diversification is not the answer. General sales happen in a physical space, which means online success requires focus and specialisation.

“You need to go narrow and deep,” says Haralambous. “You have to find a very specific niche and focus on it. Success requires you to own a small but significant section of the market.”

Related: 3 Ways retailers should accommodate the mobile-obsessed customer


  • Growth doesn’t necessarily come from diversification. Success online demands a focus on a small niche market that isn’t being serviced in a general retail space. 
  • Re-examine your distribution strategy. What channels – new or traditional – can you add to your business?
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GG van Rooyen

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