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Sri Lanka's Softlogic bullish on retail business, bags Nike dealership
Urges for import duty cut on apparel and footwear
Nishani Pigera
LBR,Thursday 22 July 2010

Uniwalkers, the retail arm of Softlogic group, which has bagged the dealership for US sportswear brand Nike in Sri Lanka, says an import tax reduction on clothes, shoes, and cosmetics will attract international retail chains which are popular with tourists.

"An import duty cut is essential for international department stores to come in to the country" says Ashok Pathirage, the founder of the Softlogic group, which started business as a software reseller in 1991.

It now has a dozen subsidiaries in diverse businesses like electronics retail, computer software and the distributorship for Dell computers. Softlogic is also the sole distributor for Nokia phones in Sri Lanka.

"The tax structure in Sri Lanka is not competitive. Import duties on clothes, shoes and cosmetics items come up to about 80-90 percent which is too much" says Pathirage

"We are trying to negotiate with the government reduce the import duties on these items which are available in big department stores," he added.

Import duties on apparel and footwear includes excise duty, value added tax, nations building tax, port and airport levy, customs duty and social responsibility levy.

"If the government can do away with the Exise duty which is 30 percent that would be enough," said Pathiarge.

Soflogic diversified in to readymade clothes retail when it bagged the dealership for the US jeans wear brand Levi's here in October last year. It now has a dozen business partners including high street retailer Odel, mens wear store Hameedias and Cotton collection.

"We have already taken the dealership for all Nike items in Sri Lanka," said Pathirage.

He said the group's retail arm Uniwalkers is planning to open two Nike stores in Colombo by end this year. However locations are not yet finalized.

Uni Walkers was incorporated in 1969 and held the Agency for Panasonic brand in Sri Lanka. Softlogic acquired the struggling firm in 2006 along with the agency and the workforce.

"I think it will be a bigger business than our Levi's business," said Pathirage, referring to his Nike dealership.

In a previous interview with LBR Pathirage said “Our future is going to be mainly on the retail side."

"If you look at the retail business in Sri Lanka it’s a virgin market. So there is so much scope," he added.

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