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How big-box grocery chains in Nairobi are adapting to capture new markets.



With an increasing demand for customer-centric service and changing customer behavior, Kenyan supermarkets are having to redesign and rethink their strategies in order to survive.

Willy Kimani, the Chief Commercial Officer of Naivas Supermarkets, speaks about the evolving customer base, “The Kenyan customer is changing; it is right now more informed. The customer has now become more complex, he is demanding more.”

Around two-thirds of Kenyans buy their groceries in traditional markets or smaller stores and kiosks. Bryan Sun, Nielsen Africa Managing Director, explains how this creates the potential for supermarket growth,

“Kenya is still a traditional market from a shopping standpoint, but I think it’s prime to move towards more of a modern market. If we look at some comparables, Kenya is about 30% modern trade, South Africa is 70% modern trade, so there is definitely runway there for growth.”

As well as changing consumer behavior, supermarkets are facing competition from international brands. Sun details how this competition has changed the industry, “The international players have come in and what we have seen is a change in the discussion. It’s much more of a focus on customer experience, things like consumer understanding.”

Sun also talks about how supermarkets are changing shopping habits across Kenya, “They’re making it a nice experience. It’s not about going and topping up and getting out, it’s about going having an experience, getting everything you want, and have all the choice you want in one place.”

Marketplace Africa visits a Naivas store to see how the changes are being implemented. One shopper tells the program why she prefers using the supermarkets,

“You get everything you need you can buy anything you want starting from the foodstuffs, clothing, digital stuff and everything, but you can’t get stuff in local shops.”

Looking to the future, supermarkets like Naivas are working to take advantage of digital potential. Sun clarifies why online sales are so small, but is hopeful for growth in the market,

“The Kenyan consumer, still traditional, still likes to touch and feel and see their produce before they buy. So, I would say there are some interesting things going on with e-commerce, I think that it’s still pretty early days in the e-commerce space.”

‘Marketplace Africa’ airs on Friday 13th March at 1845 SAST on CNN International

  • The show also airs at the following times:
  • Saturday 14th March at 1815 SAST
  • Sunday 15th March at 0100 SAST, 0500 SAST and 0915 SAST
  • Monday 16th March at 0400 SAST and 1945 SAST


Journalist/PR Practitioner who seeks to tell the African stories in an African way. Be it on Politics, Sports, Business, and Current News the story will be told. Twitter @kmajangah

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