Amid construction work at Hazina Towers in the Nairobi city centre, shoppers flocked the building’s ground floor Tuesday morning as Naivas Supermarket opened its 67th branch.
Staff busied themselves tidying up product arrangements ahead of the official opening of a store meant to offer food market services to shoppers within the upper CBD.
Naivas has taken over the space at the building owned by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), which was once occupied by Nakumatt Supermarket.
Its location near the University of Nairobi is regarded as an advantage as students stream in throughout the day.
“We realised that at the upper CBD there was no retailer serving clients there. People were hungry for this,” Naivas Chief Commercial Officer Willy Kimani said, adding the chain was ready for another branch.
Mr Kimani also told the Nation that the opening was strategically set to coincide with the festive season when numbers of shoppers increase.
He said they want customers to shop as early as possible for the Christmas season, to avoid getting caught up in the last-minute rush, considering the curfew aimed at curbing the virus.
‘No blind investment’
The branch is Naivas’ fourth within the CBD and also the fourth one to be opened in less than six months.
Nation Media Group’s Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama, who was the chief guest at the ceremony, asked Naivas’ management to ensure it makes calculated moves in its rapid expansion plan.
“Ensure you take care of the businesses and the customers. Do not rush like the others,” Mr Gitagama said.
He recognised that Naivas has proven to be one of Kenya’s most successful indigenous and consistently-growing businesses, even as the country fights the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s not easy to achieve this, especially since the pandemic has affected many businesses. Only a few indigenous companies have gotten to this level,” he said.
Tuskys, one of Naivas’ biggest competitors, is undergoing critical financial problems that have resulted in closure of branches, salary delays, rent arrears, huge debts and protests by employees.
Regarding the opening of several stores in a short period, the chain insists it is not investing blindly and will not suffer the same fate as those that have collapsed or left the market, including Nakumatt, Choppies and Tuskys.
“We have the right model but do we know our customers’ rights? Do we expand without tripping or expand out of the country before serving our market, which we fully understand?” Mr Kimani said during the opening of the 66th shop at the Waterfront Mall in Karen.
Mr Kimani further noted that the supermarket does its due diligence before making investments and opening branches to ensure profitability is guaranteed.
“We have to make sure every unit makes economic sense. We will not shy away from closing any store that fails to perform. We are taking a measured approach by researching sites.”
On Tuesday, he noted that there was stiff competition for the space as two of its competitors were interested in it.
“We had a different approach on how to utilise the site. That is why we reached a good agreement and won the space,” Mr Kimani said.
Mr Kimani also said Naivas is negotiating with landlords on rent deductions as Covid-19 continues to take its toll on businesses.
“We are approaching the landlords differently, based on store locations,” he said.