A sense of nostalgia played out at the Thika Road Mall (TRM) yesterday as workers moved the giant sculpture of an elephant from Nakumatt’s entrance.
The departure of the “elephant”, a distinguishing feature at the building in the last four years, has been eminent since the financially troubled retailer closed its TRM branch on Monday “to pave the way for stock taking”.
But when about 20 Nakumatt workers began to move the huge sculpture at about 2 p.m., most shoppers were caught unawares.
Some used mobile phones to record and share the motion on social media.
The move marked an emotional exit of the iconic retailer from TRM, the store which Nakumatt opened in 2013 as its 39th outlet to crown its regional expansion drive.
“The elephant has been moved but I cannot say more than that now,” TRM chief operating officer, Bashir Dalvi, told the Business Daily in a telephone interview yesterday.
“By early next week I may be able to give an official statement about the move.”
Nakumatt Holdings has so far closed six branches, three of them in Kenya and another three in Uganda.
For years the retailer had been the anchor tenant at TRM, occupying a shopping floor space of 80,000 square feet.
The branch targeted customers from the sprawling Roysambu, Zimmerman, Githurai, Kasarani, Kahawa and Ruaraka neighbourhoods.
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The family-owned business is fighting to cut back on massive debts owed to suppliers, estimated at Sh15 billion as at February 2015, a situation that has been piling pressure on its operations.
The supermarket is banking on cash injection from a new strategic investor to address frequent stockouts at its outlets.
There has been a proposed merger with Tuskys, which would see the two retail chains operate under one management with the owner-families remaining the principal shareholders after the transaction.
“The two businesses will collapse into one. But before the eventual merger there’s going to be a process of dealing with the liabilities,” said Tuskys chief executive Dan Githua in an interview.
Despite its troubles, Nakumatt still remains the largest retail outlet in Kenya with 56 stores, followed closely by Tuskys Supermarket which has 54.