Shoprite is moving into the space vacated by Nakumatt at Acacia Mall

Shoprite is opening its third Ugandan store at Acacia Mall, Kisementi, two years after closing an outlet in Nalya.

The new store is most likely to start operating in early 2018, according to Marc Du Toit, the head of retail at Knight Frank Uganda, which manages Acacia Mall. But it could also open “sooner if all goes well,” he added.

At Acacia, Shoprite is replacing Nakumatt as the anchor tenant. Nakumatt, which has been struggling since last year, closed its store at the mall in June after failing to meet its rent obligations. The Kenyan retailer was also forced to close two other stores at Village Mall in Bugolobi and Victoria Mall in Entebbe in June; the two properties are managed by Knight Frank.

In its Uganda Market Update for the first half of this year, Knight Frank said the anchor tenant space at these malls – previously occupied by Nakumatt – “will undergo re-development for new tenants, and should be open for trade by the first quarter of 2018.”

Shoprite’s first store in Uganda was opened in 2000 at Ben Kiwanuka Street. It opened a second store at Lugogo Mall in 2004, and a third in Nalya at Metroplex Shopping Mall in 2011. Only two of those stores are still operating after the Nalya store closed in 2015.

Press reports at the time connected the closure to the South African chain’s decision to close its operations in neighbouring Tanzania and then sell the franchise to Nakumatt. Shoprite officials have however told Uganda Business News that it disagreed with Metroplex’s management over commitments the latter had promised to undertake but failed to do.

In deciding to quit the location, Shoprite had arrived at the decision that it was not conducive to generating the required sales volumes.

Nakumatt, then on an expansion drive, opened its ninth Ugandan store in the shopping space Shoprite had vacated. Its head of strategy and operations told the East African newspaper that it was looking at increasing its branch network in East Africa to 60 by the end of that year from 55.

Two years on, after flying too close to the sun, Nakumatt is being forced to retreat as the deliberate Shoprite mops up in the precious real estate it leaves behind. Last week the Uganda Revenue Authority closed its last three stores in the country over unpaid taxes. Nakumatt entered Uganda in 2009.

Related: To cut costs, Nakumatt will close more poorly performing branches in Uganda and Kenya