Tuskys Supermarket was not long ago a vibrant giant retailer in Kenya. At one point, it offered to bail out the Nakumatt Supermarket that was already in a financial coma. It was a great entity supporting over 4,500 employees who relied on it for bread and butter.
When Nakumatt Supermarket finally died and was buried, Tuskys Supermarket embarked on a vibrant expansion around the country, taking over some of the empty malls that had been left vacant by the exit of the giant Nakumatt.
There was so much hope in Tuskys Supermarket. Customers enjoyed and felt proud shopping at the entity. The staff felt proud and always depended on it for the support of their families. Communities through initiatives as Marathons in Wareng’ always wanted to be part of Tuskys.
The Exit Of The Founder
Woes facing Tuskys Supermarket started showing their cracks when the founder of the retailer chain, Mr. Joram Kamau, died in 2002. He left the running of the multi-billion business in the hands of his 7 children to take it to the next level.
A few years later, the children started to differ. They started accusing each other and the managers of stealing from the business and setting up their own private businesses. Indeed, there were claims with evidence that the children were diverting cash from the retailer to set us their own independent businesses.
Soon the war escalated to the courts and the streets, where at one time, the CEO Mr. Dan Githu was physically frogmarched out of his office by some of the siblings. The situation at the supermarket was now messy, noisy, and with visible casualties.
Just like any other family business, without proper management and leadership, the Tuskys Supermarket ship started sinking. All efforts to bring it back to life seem to be hitting a dead end and no amount of PR seems to be working.
Smoke started hitting the roof when suppliers to Tuskys Supermarket protested over delays to settle their dues for the goods delivered. The debts to suppliers had risen to more than 1.2 billion shillings. The suppliers had to seek government intervention to have them paid.
The Competition Authority Of Kenya gave the retailer an ultimatum to pay the suppliers or be prosecuted. The supermarket complied and paid some 1.2 billion shillings, raising it to 2.7 billion shillings by August 2020.
Some suppliers stopped supplying to the supermarket and soon the shelves started running empty. Customers could not get as simple things like bread. The collapse had kicked off and there was no stopping it. We stood and watched.
Default in Rent
Tuskys started defaulting in paying rent, amounting to millions of shillings. Landlords started baying for their blood. Outlets started shutting down and auctioneers started hunting for them.
As one Tuskys employee remarked loudly, “never in my life did I ever think that a time shall come when Tuskys Supermarket will be chased out of buildings like street dogs.” But the time had come and Tuskys was dying.
Tuskys Supermarket seems to be following the same script that Nakumatt and Uchumi Supermarkets followed during their dying days.
The Greatest Casualties
The greatest casualties of the Tuskys Supermarket are the employees. Many of them have been fired without notice and without pay. Some have been fired without being paid since the month of June and thousands are already depressed.
Those being fired are told to collect their salaries in 2021, a year that probably Tuskys Supermarket will be already dead, buried and forgotten. During the week, hundreds of them staged demonstrations in Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret, demanding to be paid.
Is there hope for the once vibrant retailer to rise again?