Botswanan retailer Choppies is in talks with owners of Nanyuki Mall to take over as the anchor tenant after Nakumatt Supermarket was evicted on Tuesday for non-payment of rent.
Choppies, which entered the Kenyan market in March 2016 by acquiring seven Ukwala stores, says it hopes to conclude negotiations by the end of this month to pave way for its entry by May.
Nakumatt was thrown out of the Nanyuki Mall space in a dramatic episode that saw its goods strewn out of the building and looters having a field day before police officers dispersed them.
“We are currently negotiating with owners of the mall but nothing is signed yet. We hope to have a positive conclusion to the talks by the end of January,” Mr Parin Patel, a Choppies director, said in a telephone interview.
“After that, we would need around two to three months to settle in and open our doors.”
The retailer currently has 11 stores across the country and is planning to open a new outlet in Embakasi (Southfield Mall), Nairobi. It will also unveil another at the soon-to-be-opened Kiambu Mall, taking up space previously set aside for Nakumatt.
Nakumatt, which is struggling under a mountain of debt running into billions of shillings, had closed its doors in Nanyuki in November last year, with a notice pinned at the supermarket’s entrance indicating that the move was temporary.
A police officer on Tuesday said they had not been notified of the impending eviction despite the proprietor of the building having obtained a court order to throw out the client over rent arrears amounting to tens of millions of shillings.
Choppies’ move to replace Nakumatt replicates similar actions by Naivas, Carrefour and Tuskys, which have stepped in to occupy spaces from which the financially-strapped retail chain has been kicked out.
Similar Nakumatt evictions have happened in Eldoret and Meru as well as the retailer’s Junction, Lifestyle, Thika Road Mall and Garden City branches in Nairobi — casting the retailer’s future in doubt.
Several landlords in Uganda and Tanzania have also evicted the retailer.
Nakumatt lawyers have, however, warned that the ongoing evictions in Kenya are illegal, claiming they go against a court order prohibiting such actions.
Taibjee and Bhalla Advocates say a moratorium is in effect as part of an ongoing court case where some suppliers and landlords are seeking to have the retailer put under administration.