That Nakumatt supermarket stores did not stock to cash in on the Christmas and New Year festivities could be the clearest sign yet that the only thing that may soon remain of the one-time retail giant is its memory – unless something drastic happens. And soon.
Shelves have remained largely empty in most stores that the Nation visited and there has been no word from the head office about possible plans to replenish wares, as the retailer’s troubles persist in 2018.
Essential commodities such as milk, maize flour, sugar and groceries were stocked in trickles as few suppliers are willing to do business with the retailer any more.
Only shelves for slow moving goods seemed somewhat stocked. But even this old stock is fast diminishing.
The situation has left frustrated attendants to grapple with the daily embarrassment of turning customers away for lack of valuables. Having gone for months without pay, the workers’ enthusiasm has been further eroded.
At the Village Market branch, the manager told the Nation that clients who had stuck with the retailer for months hoping for recovery have since given up and moved on.
“A majority of our customers are white people who buy imported items. When our suppliers stopped delivering goods to us, we lost our clientele to our rivals in nearby malls,” he said.
The once popular City Hall branch is now a pale shadow of its former self. Idle cashiers, unengaged attendants and dusty shelves characterise a business hard on its knees.
Only the ground floor of the supermarket was operational, selling mostly snacks. The grocery section was empty and unattended. The first floor that was stocked with clothes and household items is empty.
At the vast Nakumatt Mega, there was low activity with tens of bored employees jostling to attend to a handful of evidently uninspired customers. Here customers were not allowed to redeem their points. They were, however, encouraged to top up their Nakumatt Global cards.
The parking space that was once bustling with activity as suppliers delivered truckloads of goods and customers drove in and out of the shopping store has become virtually lifeless, with few vehicles in sight.
While the supermarket used to provide free parking space to customers, motorists are now required to pay parking fees.
The troubles of Nakumatt’s Lifestyle branch along Monrovia Street have now spilt over to other businesses who had rented space within the retailer’s premises after the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) repossessed the building owing to longstanding rent arrears.
When the Nation visited the branch, tenants were standing outside the building hoping to access their wares that were locked inside the building following the retailer’s dispute with the landlord.
“We have been paying our agreed dues to Nakumatt all this while. Our businesses have stalled because of their failure to pay rent,” said a shop owner.
“We can’t engage the landlord directly because they do not recognise us. We can only hope the matter is settled soon enough for us to reopen our businesses or move our goods elsewhere.”
Nakumatt closed its Westgate branch in October last year. Only its Ukay Centre branch remains operational in Westlands, although thinly stocked.
Garden City and Thika Road Mall (TRM) branches have also closed. The Game is the lone retailer at Garden City. At TRM, French multinational retailer Carrefour has since taken up the space left by Nakumatt.
Nakumatt Thika branch remains open albeit without consumables such as milk, bread, flour, sugar and cereals.
The branch has been struggling to survive in the last few months due to increased debts, with customers taking off to other outlets.
“It saddens me to see Nakumatt go down to this level. I have been a loyal customer for years. I would obtain a cheque from my accumulated loyalty points to pay school fees for my daughter,” said Ms Alice Wambui, a Thika resident.
– Additional reporting by Mary Wambui