Uchumi Supermarket will bounce back, CEO Julius Kipng’etich says

Standard Group CEO Sam Shollei, left, with Uchumi CEO Julius Kipng'etich discuss plans for a joint Christmas campaign. [Photo: Faith Ronoh/Standard]

Uchumi Supermarket is working to regain its market standing by, among other things, offloading its assets to improve liquidity and its working capital.

Uchumi CEO Julius Kipng’etich said the recent closure of its operations in Tanzania and Uganda, as well as some local outlets, is part of a wider strategy to ease the strain on cash flows.

Longer repayments

The retailer is also engaging its suppliers to negotiate trading terms, which will allow for longer repayment periods.

“One of our greatest challenges as I came in was supplier debt, which we are addressing. A majority of our suppliers are back, and the platforms we are currently providing should be sufficient to ensure all our stakeholders are happy,” Dr Kipng’etich added, speaking after paying a courtesy call on Standard Group CEO Sam Shollei.

He emphasised proper systems have been put in place to ensure the retail chain’s turnaround of the business, including retraining its staff in a bid to regain shoppers.

“We are also moving our local stores to better locations as the clean-up exercise of some of our stores continues. I want to assure our customers and all other stakeholders that Uchumi will be the Walmart [US-owned multinational retailer] of Africa. Our dreams are valid.”

Kipng’etich, who was appointed in August to help revive the retailer, added that Uchumi will partner with Standard Group to run a Christmas campaign later this month.

“Uchumi has its fair share challenges, but Kipng’etich has what it takes to turnaround the business. He has a wealth of experience, especially in strategy, and I have no doubt his leadership will lead to the success of Uchumi,” Mr Shollei said.

The firm that was once Kenya’s largest retailer is in a struggle for survival following mismanagement that has twice sent it to the brink of collapse. Just months ago, the board of directors fired top managers over what they termed gross mismanagement and conflict of interest, as some had doubled as key suppliers.

“There is really nothing wrong with us, except that it was a company that was badly managed,” Kipng’etich said.