KENYA – Supermarket chain Tuskys says it has temporarily halted trading in three branches to allow customers to shop in outlets with bigger space on the outbreak of coronavirus.

Chief finance officer Martin Syuku told the Business Daily  the branches closed are in Nairobi, Kitale and Mombasa.

Hundreds of businesses have been trying to stay afloat amid the outbreak, which has seen some firms enforce social distancing to contain the spread of the disease.

“It’s a temporary suspension of our operations in those stores as we try to come out of the impact of coronavirus,” said Mr Syuku.

“We want to operate in large stores that are not congested. We did not want the government to make that decision for us.”

Mr Syuku said in Nairobi the Tom Mboya branch customers would be served from Tuskys Imara, which is 10 metres away on the same street.

He added that Kitale Mega branch customers would be served from Kitale CBD branch. Customers at Digo road branch in Mombasa will be served from Bandari, which is 500 metres away on Haile Selassie road.

He said workers in the three branches have been redeployed to other branches. “It’s a temporary shutdown of operations in those branches. Workers have been redeployed to work in other branches,” said Mr Syuku.

As Tuskys is shutting down some of its businesses, Naivas Supermarkets has opened its new store in Kilimani, Nairobi, as it seeks to strengthen its hold as a top retailer in the country.

The new outlet located along Tigoni Road, opposite Yaya Centre, is the third branch to be opened this year after Kamakis on the Eastern Bypass and Mountain View along Waiyaki Way.

The retailer has been on a massive expansion of its branch network following the sale of a 30 percent stake to France-based private equity fund Amethis Finance for Sh1.5 billion (US$15m).

“We are ready to serve our esteemed customers at our new store located at Kilimani Mall. The store offers a variety of fresh produce in additional to ordinary shopping that customers will require on the go,” said Willy Kimani, the Naivas chief commercial officer.

The new branch is predominantly a food market and occupies 10,000 square feet and targets the middle and upper-class residents of the area with readily disposable income.

The store will, however, not stock electronics and alcohol. The family-run retailer has diversified to selling alcohol for the first time since it began operations three decades ago to grow its revenue. The alcohol kiosks will be within its newly opened food market stores.

The new Food Market, opened in the midst of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic has created 110 new jobs.

Kimani noted that while it has not been easy to go through with plans to open the store, the customer culture of shopping for food items at convenient neighborhood locations had caught on strongly in Kenya, and the decision to set up in Kilimani had already been made. 

The move, he added, was informed by research that suggested a pent up need with more than 60 percent of respondents asking for an affordable, reliable, accessible source within close walking distance.

The supermarket chain also plans to open a branch in Imara Daima in Nairobi in coming months.