Botswana retailer Choppies is in talks with owners of Nanyuki Mall to take over as the anchor tenant after Nakumatt Supermarkets was evicted yesterday for non-payment of rent.
Choppies, which entered the Kenyan market in March 2016 by acquiring seven Ukwala stores, says it hopes to conclude negotiations by the end of this month to pave way for its entry by May.
Nakumatt was dramatically ejected from Nanyuki Mall as its goods were thrown out of the building and some of them stolen by looters before police fired in the air to scare the thieves away.
“We are currently negotiating with the owners of the mall but nothing is signed yet. We hope to have a positive conclusion to the talks by the end of January,” Parin Patel, a Choppies director, told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.
“After that, we would need around two to three months to settle in and open our doors.”
The Botswana retailer has 11 stores across the country and is planning to open a new outlet at South Field Mall in Embakasi. It will also open another at the soon-to-be-opened Kiambu Mall, taking up space previously allocated for Nakumatt.
Nakumatt, which is struggling under a debt burden running into billions of shillings, had closed its doors in Nanyuki in November last year with a notice pinned at the supermarket’s entrance indicating that the closure was temporary.
A police officer Tuesday said they had not been notified of the impending eviction despite the proprietor of the building having obtained a court order to evict the client over rent arrears amounting to tens of millions of shillings.
Choppies’ move to replace Nakumatt replicates similar actions by Naivas, Carrefour and Tuskys who have stepped in to occupy spaces from which the financially-strapped retail chain has been kicked out.
Similar Nakumatt evictions have happened in Eldoret and Meru as well as the Junction, Lifestyle, Thika Road Mall and Garden City branches in Nairobi — casting the retailer’s future in doubt.
Several landlords in Uganda and Tanzania have also evicted the retailer. Nakumatt lawyers have however warned that the ongoing evictions are illegal, claiming they go against a court order prohibiting such action.
Taibjee and Bhalla Advocates say moratorium is in effect as part of an ongoing court case where some suppliers and landlords are seeking to have the retailer put under administration.