Nakumatt taps into health trend with sports equipment store

Nakumatt's Sports Planet outlet at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi

Nakumatt’s Sports Planet outlet at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi

East African retailer Nakumatt Holdings has launched a dedicated sports gear store in Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre. The Sports Planet outlet stocks equipment and apparel for popular sports such as football, rugby, swimming, tennis and golf.

Until now, Nakumatt has been selling a limited range of sports equipment at selected larger-sized supermarkets. Nakumatt business development head, Neel Shah, says the sports section at its supermarkets has been “doing very well” and influenced the decision to open the stand-alone store.

“People are actually buying,” says Shah. “They are looking at a healthy lifestyle [and] they want to exercise – but they don’t want to go to the gym. We are mostly going to get individual customers buying equipment to use at home. We have a gym instructor that will advise customers on what exercise to do and how to use the equipment.”

Traffic congestion in Nairobi, particularly in the mornings and evenings, is an impediment for people who want to go to the gym, and is prompting wealthy individuals to buy their own gym equipment.

The most expensive equipment at the Sports Planet store is a Ksh.500,000 (about US$5,000) treadmill that Shah says could be ideal for a small gym. There are also less pricey treadmills starting at Ksh.30,000 (about $300) to use at home.

For golfers, the store stocks a golf kit that goes for Ksh.140,000 (about $1,400). Sports Planet also has a golf simulator machine, to be manned by a local golf pro, that will assist customers to select the right clubs and related accessories. Shah says consumers have been buying golfing equipment abroad only to find they did not get the right clubs once back in Kenya. In recent years the country has seen the development of numerous golf estates.

Strong sports culture

Kenya has a strong games and sports culture that often starts with kids playing with balls made out of paper bags. Right from primary school, children are encouraged to take part in sport.

The country often posts stellar performances in athletics internationally, while the rugby sevens team also performs well, and is currently ranked eighth in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

But ordinary people are also getting active, whether it is just jogging in their neighbourhood, hiking on the weekends or running short marathons.

Last weekend, more than 45,000 people took part in the annual First Lady’s Half Marathon. At the YMCA facilities in State House Rd, Nairobi, dozens of children and adults throng the swimming pool on a daily basis. And on e-commerce platform Rupu, independent companies offer packages for hiking trips, water rafting, quad biking and rock climbing, as well as classes on horse riding, golf, skating and dancing. More gyms are also opening up in the country’s major cities.

For some young people, there is a ‘cool’ factor to being able to swim or ride a horse, or simply post selfies on a hike.

“Kenya is such a sports-mad nation… but the availability of products has been a challenge,” says Shah. “We are expanding the product offering, stocking more brands and equipment than what we were doing within the supermarkets and what other retailers have. We plan to roll out Sports Planet stores in other locations across the country.”