Most shelves are empty. In some branches, furniture and other slow-moving commoditieshave been spread out on the ground floor, which was the preserve of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), groceries and the bakery.

The deep trouble that Tuskys Supermarket is in is showing on the faces of employees, who are getting tired of responding to disappointed customers that they are out of stock of some basic items. Some branches have run out of soda.

During a visit to the Ngong branch at the weekend, the Nation found that shelves were being emptied faster than they were being restocked.

From Ngong to Rongai, Kakamega to Kisumu, Kitale to Southfield Mall in Nairobi’s Embakasi, the story is the same.

The misfortune that befell Nakumatt Supermarket appears to have befallen Tuskys, which had taken up the position of Kenya’s biggest supermarket after the fall of the elephant. Tuskys and Nakumatt share fond memories that date back more than four decades, when they shared a roof and a wall in Nakuru.

Both have now come under the wrath of impatient suppliers who, having learnt painful lessons, withhold their stocks as soon as they miss their cheques for more than three months. The events at Tuskys have attracted the attention of the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), which has been investigating incidents of abuse of power in the retail sector.

In an update on Monday, the competition watchdog said its investigations focused on 25 mid-size and large retailers.

CAK said the investigations started in late April, 2020, and found that four retailers had delayed payments to their local suppliers for more than 90 days.

“Three (3) of the four (4) retailers, upon engagements with the Authority, presented payment plans which are being honoured as agreed, thereby progressively reducing their debt portfolio as confirmed through compliance checks,” CAK said in a statement.

However, the competition watchdog singled out Tuskys, saying it had issued Prudential and Reporting Orders to Tusker Mattresses Limited (Tuskys), requiring it to submit records revealing the full extent of debt owed, financial statements, records and sales forecasts, among others.

“The Authority further required Tuskys to submit a debt settlement plan for all debt owed to suppliers over ninety (90) days, and commence honouring its commitments, while prioritising distressed suppliers and those supplying FMCGs,” the statement said.

CAK said it had held four meetings with Tuskys in the past 30 days to review the documentation submitted and interrogate its proposed debt settlement plan.

It revealed that Tuskys provided documents indicating that it made payments to suppliers amounting to Sh2.77 billion in June, 2020, as per its order.

“Tuskys has gone further to communicate to the Authority that it has negotiated for moratoriums and extensions of its facilities with its lenders and that it was in talks with key suppliers to ensure continuation of supplies,” the statement added.

STRATEGIC INVESTOR

In addition, the shareholders of Tuskys have communicated that they were also exploring other funding options, including seeking a strategic investor by July 31, 2020.

“The Authority took note of these initiatives and has thereof committed that, if the retailer opts to seek a strategic investor, the Authority shall within fourteen (14) days, and in accordance with the provisions of the Competition Act, consider and issue a determination upon submission of a merger/acquisition application,” the statement added.

 Tuskys presented a debt settlement plan, which CAK said it had accepted, cognizant of the retailer’s prevailing circumstances. The plan will result in all suppliers’ outstanding invoices being progressively settled over four (4) months.

“The Authority shall conduct compliance checks on a weekly basis to ensure adherence to the presented debt settlement plan,” the CAK statement added.

 It said it will continue to interrogate the financial statements, and management accounts presented by Tuskys, and asked aggrieved suppliers to present their complaints. “This will enable the Authority to establish Tuskys’ accurate debt portfolio,” CAK added.