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Maathai Supermarkets opens its first store in Nairobi

Customers shop at a supermarket in Nairobi’s central business district. Thika-based Maathai Supermarket is opening its first city branch. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU
Customers shop at a supermarket in Nairobi’s central business district. Thika-based Maathai Supermarket is opening its first city branch. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU 

Thika-based retailer Maathai Supermarket will Wednesday unveil its Nairobi branch, marking the first entry into the central business district for the upcoming chain that currently has five outlets.

The supermarket, which is owned by businessman Victor Maina, has stores in Thika, Ruiru, Muranga, Nyeri and Karatina.

The Nairobi store is located on Ronald Ngala Street and is set to employ 70 people, according to people familiar with the plans.

Mr Maina, who declined to respond to our requests for comment, is also the owner of the new storeyed building that will host the new store.

“The management is seeking more space within the central business district (CBD) to deepen its entry in Nairobi,” said a close ally of Mr Maina who sought anonymity.

Mr Maina has a portfolio of investment in real estate, construction companies, entertainment clubs, and stone quarries in Juja town, which are registered under different subsidiaries.

Last month, he said the expansion into Nairobi is set to give his retail chain a new outlook and widen its focus from targeting low income earners to include the middle class as the retailers eyes more outlets in the CBD.

“We have for long focused our retail investment outside Nairobi and  the new focus in Nairobi is one of  our many strategies to open more branches in the central business district,” said Mr Maina in a phone interview last month.

The new outlet is located in an area with high human traffic as it is next to numerous terminuses for matatus that ply the Dandora, Githurai 45, Karibangi, Huruma, Eastleigh, Murang’a and Kiambu routes.

The business model of establishing stores near bus stops has served Tuskys and Naivas well in their strategy of netting the large number of working class consumers using public transport.

Maathai Supermarket is seeking to replicate the growth by such retailers — that both started as small shops before morphing into top supermarket chains and spreading their footprint nationally.

Early this year, Eastmatt Supermarket, a family-owned retailer, replicated the same model after it turned its focus to the city centre by taking over a Tom Mboya street store that was previously occupied by Tusky’s supermarket.

The store is located next to many bus terminuses for matatus that ply the Kasarani, Zimmerman, Kahawa, Githurai and Eastleigh routes. It also targets commuters to Ruaka, Huruma and Kabete.

Eastmatt previously had its operations outside the city centre and started its retail business in 1990 in Mau Narok as Eastleigh Mattresses.

The retailer has six branches in Tala, Mwea and Kitengela as well as three city branches including stores in Eastleigh, Mfangano Street and River Road. The retailer is planning   more branches in Nairobi’s CBD.

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