The once vibrant giant and the unbeatable elephant in the retailer sector in Kenya and East Africa, in general, seems to be long dead.
The retailer is dead but the owners, as well as the mourners, have refused to conduct the funeral, read the eulogy, write an epitaph and be done with it.
“Nakumatt is the longest funeral I have ever attended and witnessed,” one of the journalists in Kenya tweeted on his Twitter handle.
“Nakumatt is dead. The mourners have gathered. The coffin has been prepared but the relatives have refused to release the body for burial,” another social media enthusiast posted on Twitter.
Towards the end of 2017, late in December, more than 2,000 workers of Nakumatt decided to “resign” after staying without salaries for more than six months.
Some of the former employees are still spending sleepless nights outside closed branches crying for help from the government to help persuade their ailing employer to pay them their dues.
Nakumatt has literally closed down almost all its branches across the country. In Nairobi, the retailer only has one store within the Central Business District (CBD).
All the branches in Nakuru, Bungoma, Eldoret, and Mombasa have been closed down. Those remaining are running on empty shelves.
The retailer who was the giant in both Tanzania and Uganda is no more. Almost all the branches in these countries have been closed down. Some like in Uganda have been confiscated by revenue authorities for failing to remit taxes.
Nakumatt started running through turmoil when it was revealed that the retailer had debts amounting to more than 30 billion shillings.
With these huge debts, the retailer could not pay suppliers on time and some opted to pull their products off the shelves.
Currently, the few available joints affiliated to Nakumatt are empty and some are being forcefully closed down by landlords over unpaid rents running into millions.
A day or week does not pass nowadays with such headlines as “Nakumatt violently ejected over unpaid rent in places so and so.” It is like everyone is against Nakumatt.
Nakumatt has one major problem: pride. Nakumatt is very proud. They seem not to understand the old antiquated saying of “pride comes before a fall.”
Sometimes it is important to acknowledge when you are down. It does not hurt to acknowledge defeat. Nakumatt wants to fulfill the saying “dying while fighting”.
Nakumatt should first put aside its pride. Acknowledge that they have been rained on thoroughly. Be open to their employees, tell them that indeed the retailer is broke (true) and that plans are underway to “pay them” even if it will be a “little lie.”
Nakumatt cannot keep on insisting that it is okay while it is receiving blows every day. They first have to accept that they are down, find out why they are down and then ask for help. Sometimes it is good to let it go, strategize and come up strongly. It is about living to fight another day.
Lessons from Uchumi Supermarket and Kenya Airways
Nakumatt should take a notebook and a pen and go to Uchumi Supermarket and Kenya Airways.
These two entities are perfect examples of those who were once at their lowest point but are now on a positive trajectory.
Kenya Airways has moved from a loss if more than 27 billion shillings and is now back to the skies, scaling the scares and reclaiming its once lost glory. The airline will soon fly back into the profit-making zone.
Uchumi Supermarket was in the economic intensive care unit just the other day. In December, the retailer embarked on a restocking exercise of most of its branches. Although it is not yet out of the woods, one can see that the retailer is trying.
What both Uchumi Supermarket and Kenya Airways did was that they realized they were down, acknowledged and asked for help.
Nakumatt thought that they were too big to fall. That notion has coated them a big deal.
But what happened to Nakumatt? You cannot just move from the top to the ground at once without you yourself knowing the cause. So, Nakumatt, what happened? What brought you down? Where are all the profits you used to make?