My one year in Kenya’s retail madhouse

My one year in Kenya's retail madhouse

Nakumatt Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Dixon. As a preacher of the turnaround gospel, Andrew Dixon fast rose to become one of the most visible figures in Kenya’s retail sector.

The former executive of British retail giant Tesco was among the last sensational hires by Nakumatt and Uchumi in their twilight years.

But Mr Dixon’s sermons didn’t last, realising he had also been fed the wrong theology.

In each of the retailers, stubborn facts quickly eroded the dizzying optimism he had been dispensing a few months into the job. Covid 19 Time Series

This led to a barren tenure followed by a quick exit, leaving the two erstwhile retail giants to dramatically sink into oblivion.

In a tell-all interview with the Financial Standard from his base in the United Kingdom, he details the baffling mess he found in Nakumatt – which he says he was misled into joining – and why Uchumi failed despite the goodwill from the government to revive it.

The expatriate has over 30 years’ experience in global retail and business advisory, working with global firms such as consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble, among others.

And despite his past bad experience, Dixon now says he is not yet done with Kenyan firms and is plotting a comeback.

He is now part of consultancy firm Savants that is helping businesses chart post-coronavirus recovery.

“My passion for retail and customers has never gone anywhere,” he says.

Dixon’s foray into the top ranks of Kenyan retail began in late 2016 when he was headhunted to “professionalise” the now dead Nakumatt.What followed was a turbulent year inside the firm, ending with a desolate tweet: “To all my followers, this is to advise that I no longer work at Nakumatt,” he posted in October 2017.Before his appointment in January 2017, Nakumatt was bleeding cash and its aggressive debt-fuelled expansion had started to unravel.Dixon says his duties included “professionalising” the family-owned retailer.At the time, he was told the long-awaited Nakumatt Initial Public Offering (IPO) would happen soon, followed by the entrance of a strategic investor to recapitalise the business.On these grounds, Dixon was sold to the turnaround narrative and joined the supermarket as the chief marketing officer.“When I came in, Nakumatt was still dominant. It had the best store locations and business was good,” Dixon recalls during a recent glitchy Zoom call.Due to connection issues, this writer had to repeat the video call interview twice in one week.The Atul Shah family-owned […]

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