Julius Kipng’etich came, saw but failed to conquer Uchumi using his managerial prowess and influence. He decided to jump ship to Jubilee insurance and left the ailing retail chain sailing towards turbulent times.
The tough times have now caught up with Uchumi and for the last three months, the supermarket has not paid its over 1,355 employees signaling a deepening post Kipng’etich crisis. The non payment of salaries began in December 2017.
The retail chain, which is suffering under heavy debt-load, owes suppliers and landlords billions of shillings and has struggled to attract or raise new capital to fund its retail operations. It has also been on the legal corridors a number of times fighting closure of its branches whose shelves have for sometime been empty.
There have been calls for the government to intervene and rescue the sinking business. Employee unions are now also appealing to the government to consider the plight of all affected workers
Uchumi’s turnaround efforts have been badly hampered by lack of funds whcih has made it almost impossible to re-stock it’s outlets
Since the departure of Julius Kipng’etich in November 2017, Uchumi is still hunting for a substantive chief executive.
Dr Kipng’etich, whose two-year contract expired in October last year, joined the failing retail giant from Equity Group in August 2015 after its former CEO, Jonathan Ciano, was fired along with three senior managers for mismanagement.
Uchumi has posted a series of losses in the past three years and has struggled to recover since it first went into receivership in mid-2006.
The retailer came out of receivership in January 2008, riding on a Sh675 million bailout loan from its principal shareholder, the government.
The rescue plan now appears to have hit a dead end after Uchumi failed to conclude the sale of a prime piece of land it owns in Kasarani in Nairobi, prompting it to consider staff reduction.
With massive redundancies which have become the 2017-2018 hallmark of corporate Kenya, Uchumi employees may painfully but inevitably so need to look out for other “economic rescue boats” as the “big Uchumi ship” makes the long awaited crush into the “iceberg”.