Naivas interview by Hellen Matama.
Respondent: Willy Kimani, CCO Naivas Supermarket.
Qn 1. Can you briefly introduce Naivas to our readers?
Ans. Naivas is the largest retail chain in Kenya. We have 54 branches spread across the country. Our Naivas Reward Loyalty Card marks 10 years in the market. Naivas is the first retail chain to set up food markets, which simply means that most of the items in these stores are fresh and dry foods.
Qn 2. What did Naivas do to become the most successful retailer in Kenya? What is the secret of your success?
Ans. Over the years since we set up nearly three decades ago, Naivas grew organically, focusing on partnership with quality suppliers and ensuring that our customers got value for their hard earned money. Our success is attributed largely to keeping a firm pulse on customer needs, emulating global retail standards and trying to keep ahead of the curve with responsive solutions.
Qn 3. Can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers? How did you grow to your position?
Ans. My role in Naivas is to oversee all the commercial operations, including supplier coordination, marketing and communications as the chief commercial officer. My career in retail started from the shop floor and over the years moved into category management, branch leadership, head of IT, Business Development and eventually to where I am today. It has been a long journey consisting of hard work, everyday learning and most importantly working with a great team.
Qn 4. How do you evaluate the development of Kenyan brands over the last twenty years on the Kenyan market?
Ans. Kenyans are an extremely enterprising people. I have seen some brand come into the market and go, but by and large, the level of innovation in various categories has really improved, particularly in the last decade. There is now better packaging and entrepreneurs are experimenting with a larger variety of goods as they raise their quality standards.
Qn 5. What percentage of the Naivas shelves are filled by Kenyan producers?
Ans. Naivas is a great supporter of local businesses. The fact that a large portion of our offering consists of fresh and dry foods means that we reserve nearly 60 percent of shelf space for local products. We also encourage finished goods producers to work with us to grow their market share. And since we are the best paymaster, most producers prefer to work with us as their working capital is not tied for too long.
Qn 6. What are the Naivas most important marketing activities in Kenyan market? How do you develop a loyalty program for your consumers? What keeps them coming back?
Ans. Naivas holds a wide range of marketing activities. These include price promotions specific to different outlets, advertising on local media and in recent times, we have taken a great portion of our communication and engagement to the digital sphere where we have a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. This year we partnered with Ketepa and the Tea Directorate to launch a national tea month that we will be celebrating every August to promote local tea appreciation and consumption.
Our loyalty program is consistent and enables shoppers to accumulate points that they can easily redeem. We have structured it in a way that even when you forget your card, one can still earn the card points by spelling out their phone number to the teller.
Qn 7. What are some of the challenges that you face in retail industry?
Ans. Retail is a service business, even as much as we provide goods to the shoppers. The overall customer experience right from access, shelf access, information, queuing and customer service to the exit all matter. The number of retailers is growing and therefore competition for shoppers is intense. Shrinkage both paper and actual loss of product still looms large. Retail is a low margin trade and many are the times when we struggle to get middle grounds with our suppliers and landlords. But we are organized overall as the Retail Traders Association of Kenya (RETRAK) to consolidate our advocacy on issues that affect us as an industry where I also serve as Chairman.
Qn 8. Where do you see Naivas in 5 years in African market?
Ans. Naivas is fully committed to serving the Kenyan market, which we believe has immense potential. We will continue to expand our geographical footprint in line with emerging opportunities. We also intend to introduce more innovations and expand the utility of the Naivas e-commerce to other urban areas.
Qn 9. How is Naivas involved in giving back to the community?
Ans. Naivas, being a family oriented company, has consistently supported several causes. We work closely with organizations running marathons and walks to raise money by giving them access at our outlets to sell tickets. We also support the operations of children homes across the country with various supplies and most branches have adopted one.
Qn 10. How do you like In store Kenya project?
Ans. The project is an interesting addition to the Kenyan editorial scene. We encourage you to pursue the creation of great content and stories for we believe that is what attracts readers to publications.