Uchumi’s new manager sets focus on redeeming retailer’s tattered image


Uchumi Supermarkets outlet on Aga Khan Walk in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE

Uchumi Supermarket’s newly appointed operations consultant says his key focus will be on restoring the retailer’s image.

Peter Kamau was on Friday unveiled as Uchumi’s consultant after the listed retailer lost its chief operations officer to rival Naivas.

Mr Kamau, who worked for Tuskys for 17 years until 2014, says his immediate focus will be to sell the retailer’s employees the turnaround strategy even as he streamlines operations.

Uchumi last week lost its chief operations officer Willy Kimani to rival Naivas, barely eight months into the job.

“We need to redeem our image. I will start by psyching up the staff to ensure that they understand what is required of them in terms of the recovery agenda,” Mr Kamau said in an interview.

“My job is to look into our overall operations of the company and ensure that everything is working to the optimum.

“That includes customer relations and supply chain. I will also be involved in the financial part of the recovery plan.”

Mr Kamau exited Tuskys for consultancy in 2014 having risen up the ranks from an intern to becoming the retailer’s operations general manager, a position he held for six years.

Julius Kipng’etich, Uchumi’s chief executive, says the business is looking to tap his experience in the retail sector to help the company arrest its dwindling fortunes.

READ: Uchumi hires operations consultant after Naivas raid

Besides heading Tuskys’ operations, Mr Kamau has consulted for Bidvest Foodservice, a South African retail supplier, as well as Nairobi Kitchencare Limited.

“Peter’s knowledge of retail operations, local and international experience will be invaluable as we look to define more innovative solutions for our customers and endeavour to stabilise our business,” Mr Kipng’etich said in a statement.

The new consultant provides the CEO a crucial and timely helping hand as he struggles to save Kenya’s oldest retail chain which is financially strained.

Mr Kipng’etich had head-hunted Mr Kimani from Naivas to help drive his turnaround plans for the troubled company.

Mr Kimani said he left Uchumi because it no longer offered him “an opportunity to grow” adding that “it’s quite clear they are on the right track but what they need is stabilisation and they are not on the growth track.”

Uchumi has been shrinking its branch count, laying off staff and cutting costs to stay afloat.

The retailer faces a winding up suit which it has vigorously fought against, including by trying to persuade the litigants to drop the case and convert their debt into equity.

The supermarkets also needs a cash injection to boost its operating capital. The government has teamed up with other shareholders in a bid to craft a bailout plan.