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Uchumi opens 24-hour outlet in Nairobi

Uchumi Supermarkets Koinange Street branch in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE
Uchumi Supermarkets Koinange Street branch in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE 

Uchumi Supermarkets has introduced 24-hour shopping at one of its branches in Nairobi, becoming the third major retailer in the country to offer round-the-clock services.

The NSE-listed retailer, which is seeking to navigate its way from financial losses, has converted its Koinange Street branch into a 24-hour outlet targeting customers who shop late into the night or early morning.

Nakumatt Holdings, the country’s leading retailer, and Tuskys are only other supermarket chains offering day-and-night access having pioneered the service eight years ago.

“We have introduced 24-hour shopping at Koinange branch targeting the Y-generation including university students who sleep late and business people who work through shifts and flexi hours,” chief executive Julius Kipng’etich told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.

Mr Kipng’etich added the retailer’s City Square, Ngong Hyper and Sarit outlets will from December 7 begin closing at midnight from the current 9:30pm, stating that the extension was in response to “changing customer needs”.

The retailer, which has 24 stores, is following in the footsteps of Nakumatt which opened its first 24-hour store in 2008 with its Mega, Ukay and Moi Avenue shops in Nairobi currently operating under this model.

Nakumatt this month downgraded Lifestyle and Prestige stores from 24-hour stating that the two outlets would be closing at 10:00pm on weekdays and 8:30pm on weekends to “facilitate ongoing branch upgrades”.

Tuskys operates only one round-the-clock store opposite City Market while Naivas and Ukwala, the other major retailers in the country, are yet to adopt this model.

Uchumi, however, used to have some round-the-clock stores in Uganda and Tanzania, markets it has since quit due to sustained losses over the past five years.

The retailer’s move to introduce this model in Kenya is the latest revival measure being introduced by Dr Kipng’etich since becoming the firm’s chief executive three months ago.

Uchumi is in the process of refurbishing its stores in a bid to regain the appeal it once had and attract the customers it lost to competitors due to inadequate supplies.

The retailer had been relying heavily on borrowing from commercial banks in Kenya to finance its operations after years of loss-making which has also seen its debt to suppliers stack up.

The retailer has taken to downsizing including selling its prime assets in Nairobi to raise money to pay its suppliers and return to profitability.

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