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Nakumatt Not Closing Down - Sameer Shah

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Nakumatts Operations Manager for Uganda, Sameer Shah, says the supermarket giant is instead streamlining its operations in Uganda in order to increase efficiency and robustness.
The Operations Manager of Nakumatt Supermarket in Uganda Sameer Shah
Kenyan mega supermarket chain Nakumatt says speculation that it is on the verge of closing its Uganda operations is untrue.

Nakumatt's Operations Manager for Uganda, Sameer Shah, says the supermarket giant is instead streamlining its operations in Uganda in order to increase efficiency and robustness.

Speaking exclusively to Uganda Radio Network, Sameer says the move is to make the chain responsive to trends in the market.

Nakumatt announced that it would be reducing the operating hours at its Garden City branch, the very first in Uganda, from 24 hours to 18 hours. In the new arrangement, the branch will open at 6:00 am and operate till midnight, cutting off six hours.

The announcement triggered speculation that the chain, which operates six branches in Uganda, is likely going to shut down some, if not all, of its operations in Uganda. Speculation has been rife that its Entebbe branch is likely to be the first to close.

The speculation built on the closure last year of operations in Uganda of Uchumi, another Kenyan supermarket chain.

Uchumi, which is now under receivership, is a subject of bilateral negotiations between the Ugandan and Kenyan governments in order to ensure the suppliers and creditors get paid billions of Shillings.

Sameer says while the market is subdued, Nakumatt is not considering closing all or any of its operations but rather streamline them to contain the challenges. He insisted that Entebbe and Bukoto branches will also remain open.

On whether the supermarket sub-sector is not matching the shopping habits of most Ugandans and therefore losing ground to retail shops, Sameer agrees saying that presently the market is tilted in favour of the retail shops.

Sameer adds that the trend is, however, gradually going in favour of supermarkets hinged on a growing young population with high propensity to consume. He says the young demographic grouo, which favours glitzy shopping over retail shopping, is growing and will give supermarkets an edge in future.

According to Sameer, the future of supermarkets, like in many frontier markets, is bright but will need strategic positioning now.

Robert Okello, the head of Students Advancing Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE), an organization that promotes entrepreneurship among young people, agrees with Sameer saying Uganda's young and educated population is a strong market for modern shopping if harnessed.

Okello argues that price differences between the dukas and supermarkets will also play a big role in which shopping sub-sector will be more attractive to Ugandans.