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How the Covid-19 situation is changing grocery shopping in the UAE

How the Covid-19 situation is changing grocery shopping in the UAE

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing social restrictions, online grocery shopping has taken an unprecedented flight

The Covid-19 pandemic that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan has since spread to over 200 countries, sequestering much of the world’s population.

While governments have activated remote work and education protocols and encouraged social distancing norms, the change in social order has paved way for technology to shine through in select sectors. Online grocery shopping, being one, has taken an unprecedented flight.

In the UAE, retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim temporarily reassigned more than 1,000 employees from its other businesses to its Carrefour brand, including supermarkets, hypermarkets, fulfilment and distribution centres, to meet increased demand at the physical stores and online.

In the first three weeks of March, Carrefour recorded a staggering spike in regional customer demand as daily online sales soared by 50 per cent compared to the same period in February, it said.

UAE-based healthy meal delivery service Theo’s Point has responded to the situation by initiating a new grocery delivery service to serve customers. Deliveries are furnished within 48 hours through its contactless process.

Meanwhile UAE-based supermarket chain Grandiose has more than doubled its delivery sales in the past two weeks, growing by over 200 per cent compared to previous weeks.

“Grandiose has in place very robust business continuity plans which means we are prepared for every contingency,” Olivier Latour, CEO of Grandiose, told Gulf Business.

“We have extended our working hours in all of our stores across the UAE, operating from 7am until 12 midnight daily, with our Dubai Marina Promenade branch now open 24 hours a day throughout the week. We have also expanded the radius of our delivery by adding new delivery vans.”

Grandiose currently facilitates home shopping and delivery through direct communication with customers as well as third party apps such as Insta shop and El grocer while aiming to add two more partners in the upcoming month. Furthermore, it has seven more stores opening this year across the UAE.

In times of heightened safety measures, the company’s protocols include daily temperature monitoring and the usage of preventive gear.

“We conduct daily deep sanitisation cleaning in our stores. Staff members’ temperature is taken on a daily basis, masks and gloves are mandatory for all. We take the temperature of customers entering the store, requesting all customers to wear masks. We provide gloves and sanitisers for our customers free of charge. Social distancing stickers are highlighted to guide customers on the safe distance required at check out and inside the store,” the CEO added.

Looking beyond the UAE, the trend is also gaining traction in the rest of the GCC. In March, Saudi Arabia-based online grocery app Nana raised $18m in funds to support the company’s expansion in times of heightened demand in the aftermath of the outbreak.

Read: Saudi online grocery startup Nana Direct raises $6.6m in funding

As the world battles with the outbreak and hopes to claim victory in weeks if not months, some behavioural traits are likely to continue. That could mean the way people shop will never be the same again.

Latour concurs: “[Post the Covid-19] we expect customers will still opt to purchase all basic and cleaning items online, while only going to the physical supermarket for fresh or speciality items.”

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