Uchumi: Your Home of Value
Kenya’s oldest supermarket chain celebrates almost four decades in East Africa
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Callum Philp
With a total of 37 branches spread across the East African region, Uchumi Supermarkets bring close to 40 years of experience to the retail sector in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Proud of the company’s commitment to excellence and value, CEO Jonathon Ciano says that through the company’s strong branding and qualified staff complement, Uchumi provide the best customer service in the business: “Uchumi is a treasure hunt for its consumers and we take pride in keeping the in-store experience fresh and unique. Originality is our middle-name - we take creativity and innovation to another level.
“For example, our stores are designed to be modular so that we can quickly adapt to industry trends in terms of products and how to best stack them on the shelves. These are just a few of the ways Uchumi stands out from the crowd.”
Established in December 1975, Uchumi Supermarkets Limited has witnessed substantial growth over the years, recording 4,500 employees in 2014.
Furthermore, Uchumi is the only supermarket that is listed on the three East African stock exchanges’ Nairobi, Uganda and Tanzania, which means that all operations reach a reputable industry standard. Revenue has steadily grown to reach highs of KSh 17 billion in the financial year-end July 2014.
In the past 12 months, the East African retail giant has witnessed exceptional growth and has widened its business scope by opening nine additional branches across the three countries of operation as a result.
Testament to its commitment to expansion, Uchumi continues to forge strong relationships with partners including the Co-operative Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank and Equity Bank in order to further increase its customer reach. “Our shareholders are very important to us. We aspire towards continued growth and profitability in order to provide value to not only the customers, but our partners too,” Ciano says.
“In furtherance to our mission to be ‘the supermarket of choice in the East African region’, we hope to open our first store in Rwanda by the middle of next year,” he adds.
Recognising industry trends
Uchumi monitors supermarket trends on a global scale to bring only the best practices to East Africa. With the rise of online shopping for convenient and timely delivery of goods, Uchumi is currently finalising an ecommerce platform of its own which will be marketed aggressively through digital marketing channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
“We have incorporated social media into our various avenues of marketing communication with our customers. This strategy complements our other brand marketing activities and is progressing well,” says Ciano.
Accompanying this approach is a new and innovative customer reward programme, the Value Plus card, which succeeds the U-Card, and is designed to improve customer loyalty through incentives to shop with Uchumi.
“The Value Plus card programme has been created to show our appreciation to our loyal customers. When the card is scanned at the point of sale at the time of purchase, points are credited into a customer’s card account. Once a minimum of 100 points is reached, customers are given the opportunity to redeem points from our online rewards selection,” Ciano further explains.
The Value Plus Card, just like the U-Card, will embrace the somewhat western concept of a loyalty card scheme in order to provide the best possible level of interaction with the customer. “Indeed, the reward programme is based on the promise of exemplary service delivery,” he adds.
Uchumi stores are known for their wide variety of product stock which is not only fresh, but is sourced locally from the East Africa region.
“As an East African chain store, our role is to assist local wealth by encouraging it to circulate and multiply within communities and the wider East African region. In light of this, we champion a government initiative called ‘Buy Kenya Build Kenya’. All the fresh produce that we sell is sourced from local farmers. It is vital that our supply chain should contribute rather than detract from the local farming and manufacturing aspects of the economy,” says Ciano.
People are a crucial part of any business and this is no different for Uchumi. The supermarket chain has several policies in place to ensure that staff keep abreast of the latest industry trends, technologies and health and safety enforcements.
“These trainings also help employees to improve their skills and grow responsibilities within the organisation. For example, employees who want to further their career by acquiring a degree are allowed flexible working hours so they may attend class,” says Ciano.
Moreover, the company offer a wide array of other opportunities including in-house training in the form of individual and group development and exchange programmes with other countries to further multi-skill staff. “With such mentorship and trainings in place, Uchumi is able to provide a customer service that is unrivalled in East Africa,” he adds.
As East Africa’s leading supermarket chain, Uchumi Supermarkets believe that engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) is vital to local development. Consequently, the company show its support to many annual community events that have a positive effect on the life of others.
Every December, representatives visit more than seven children’s homes and give food, bedding and other items, as well as services such as painting the homes or providing hospital equipment. The company is best known for its participation in the annual Ndakaini Dam and Lewa marathons and for supporting walks aimed at raising money for women and children such as the First Lady Marathon. These are in addition to sponsoring sporting events such as golf.
Uchumi’s acute focus on its core values and maintaining a secure value stream for stakeholders has put the supermarket chain on a winning path that will see the customer remain at the heart of this vision. “Our customers will remain at the heart of our values. And, after a successful oversubscribed rights issue last year, we have seen improved stakeholder confidence, which serves as recognition that Uchumi is here to stay,” concludes Ciano.