KENYA – Naivas Supermarkets has entered talks to take over as anchor tenant at Kenyatta University’s Unicity mall, after Uchumi Supermarkets gave up its quest for the space.

The shopping complex constructed by Kenyatta University had earlier been earmarked to host an Uchumi hypermarket as the main tenant.

It was scheduled to start operations mid this year.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed Uchumi, which is fighting to bounce back to profitability, confirmed that it has shelved plans to invest in the mall.

“With regards to KU Unicity, we wish to confirm that we are not able to progress but we shall continue to review potential locations in line with our business growth strategy,” said Uchumi chief operations officer Willy Kimani.

Efforts to get a comment from Kenyatta University Vice-Chancellor Oliver Mugenda were not successful.

The university has already contracted Tysons Limited to be the leasing agent for the facility.

“We have on several occasions held talks with the management of Naivas Supermarket. We are still in negotiations over certain areas of concern that I am not able to disclose for now,” said an official of Tysons.

Uchumi had booked the Unicity mall during the leadership of former chief executive officer Jonathan Ciano, who was sacked by the board over what it termed as gross negligence that plunged the retailer into losses.

The expansion of Uchumi at that time had also come under huge criticism from its shareholders, who questioned its expansion at a time when the retailer was struggling financially and relying on borrowing from banks to even pay its suppliers.

The managing director of Naivas Supermarkets David Kimani confirmed that the retailer is in talks with Tysons Limited to be the anchor tenant at the mall.

“We have already made good progress in talks with Tysons Limited  and some of the areas we are negotiating with them is to create a road that will link shoppers from Membly Estate and those  coming to the mall through Thika Road and the bypass,” said Mr Kimani.

Uchumi had announced plans to open two branches in Kenyatta University to tap the growing population that mainly consisting of students and residents in the neighbouring middle-class residential estates such as Membley and Kahawa Sukari.

Kenyatta University handles a daily population of more than 15,000, with the big number being students.

Uchumi had marked the KU Unicity branch as a hypermarket that would also be used as a training facility for university students to enhance their business skills and knowledge in the retail sector.