Nigerian party people keep the champagne flowing through recession

Partygoers pose with premium drinks in Quilox nightclub, Lagos.

Story highlights

  • Alcohol e-commerce platform enjoys rapid growth
  • Luxury brands such as Moet and Hennessy in high demand
  • Club owner suggests recession has boosted nightlife

(CNN)"Nigeria is a party nation," says Lanre Akinlagun. "Any wedding, funeral, or graduation is an opportunity to party here."

Parties are Akinlagun's business, and business is good. The British-educated entrepreneur is the director of Nigeria's largest online alcohol retailer Drinks.ng, which has not merely survived but thrived during a prolonged recession.
    Sales have increased by around 80% in each of the last two years, says Akinlagun, and the roster of clients has grown rapidly.
    Drinks.ng provides deliveries to 28 of Nigeria's 36 states, excepting the embattled Northern regions. The company also operates a 24/7 delivery service within the nightlife heartlands of Lagos, supplying parched partygoers at exclusive clubs, corporate events, and private parties.
    The director has learned that even in hard times, Nigerian drinkers can have expensive tastes.
    Inside Quilox on a popular night.

    Expensive tastes

    The vast majority of orders to Drinks.ng sales are for premium brands. Top sellers include Moet champagne, Hennessy cognac and Johnny Walker whiskey, in some cases for over $100 a bottle.
    Akinlagun acknowledges this restricts his business to the elite end of the market, in a country where over 60% of the population live in extreme poverty.
    "We serve clients with big budgets," he says. "The average wedding brings in $16-20,000, and last month we had one worth $80,000."
    Such clients have deep pockets and voracious appetites. Akinlagun says champagne sales have almost doubled each quarter over the past year, corroborating research from Euromonitor that showed Nigeria is one of the fastest growing champagne markets in the world. Moet & Chandon recently unveiled a new premium range in Nigeria, which global ambassador Pierre Louis Araud described as "the most important market for us here in Africa."
    Nigeria is one of the fastest growing markets for champagne.
    Euromonitor also found growing demand for other premium alcohol products, with the sales value of spirits increasing by 104% between 2011 and 2016, with wine increasing by 115% over the same period. Beer sales climbed by just 51%.
    Profound social changes underpin these shifts, according to the group's research analyst, Danielle le Clus Rossouw.
    "Greater demand for sophisticated products such as wine and more expensive spirits is driven by changing social demographic factors," she says. "(These include) increasing urbanization, a growing middle class, growth of women in formal education and employment and overall growth in formal and professional employment."
    Social drinkers have become loyal to elite products, and less affluent customers aspire to them, says Adeleke Oki, manager of the popular Quilox nightclub in Lagos.
    "Most of our consumers are so addicted to premium brands," says Oki. "Everyone is looking up to buy those drinks. Even if they can't now, they are looking to when they have the money."