As grocery retailers in the Middle East are heading into one of their busiest periods, they have undertaken all measures to get Ramadan-ready. From ensuring product availability to realigning fulfillment, and importantly stepping up health and safety measures, they have done all this and more.
With the holy month of Ramadan likely to commence from tomorrow (April 24), amidst lockdown and movement restrictions, grocery retailers are faced with an unprecedented situation this year. However, they are “well prepared” to meet customer demand during Ramadan and beyond.
“We are fully geared to handle customer demand during the holy month of Ramadan. We are fully stocked across categories with all items required during Ramadan. There will be no shortage of products whatsoever,” stresses Kamal Vachani, group director, Almaya Supermarket.
Offering a perspective from Saudi Arabia, Ahmad AR. BinDawood, CEO, Danube & BinDawood, BinDawood Holding emphasises that, so far – since the COVID-19 outbreak – “We haven’t noticed any panic buying amongst our customers and the government has run a number of successful campaigns to assure the public there is enough stock in the market and not to panic buy.”
“Since the onslaught of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown began, we have worked side by side with the relevant government entities to ensure we were prepared, securing the necessities that customers typically seek during Ramadan. We have also implemented a plethora of safety and hygiene precaution measures to protect our staff and customers across the stores and operations to ensure a safe shopping environment,” he continues.
Adding on, Mark Lack, CEO, Urban Foods says, “Our stores are already Ramadan-ready and decorated as per usual. Stocks are in store and displayed at the front and then around the store so that people can find them easily.”
Commenting on popular categories, Vachani says, “Traditionally, during Ramadan we see accelerated demand for dates, yogurt, fresh food like fruits and vegetables as well as canned products. As people are staying at home, we are seeing an uptick in baking categories too.”
Urban Foods – operating Géant, Franprix and Monoprix – also confirms uptick in similar product categories including beverages, sweets, baking items and consumables like paper plates. “However, this year we are expecting some changes, as home Iftar and Suhoor will have to be limited to people within home rather than the extended family and guests,” Lack observes.
In essence, Ramadan is the month of giving, and this year it is even more significant, opines Olivier Latour, CEO, Grandiose. “In line with the month of giving, we have created some attractive offers in-store and online wherein, people can purchase as well as gift food items. Our affordably priced ‘Ramadan Box’ includes items such as sugar, rice, milk, soup, salt, sunflower oil, spaghetti and cheese, among others. We have also created a meal combo for only AED10, including chicken biriyani, labaan, dates and water.”
Moving over to online grocery shopping, an area that has recorded massive surge over the last few months since COVID-19 outbreak. Across the region several players have reported significant surge in online orders. Cases in point: Carrefour with 300% Y-O-Y rise; Danube’s daily sales were up over 200% towards March-end; and El Grocer with daily downloads increasing 10 times.
The big question is whether grocery retailers are prepared to ensure timely order fulfillment.
“We have already aligned fulfilment with our platform providers and suppliers. Our staff in stores have been trained in multitasking, whereby 75% of all employees can now operate across the store whether it be picking orders, operating the checkouts or filling the shelves. This was something we identified during our Business Continuity Planning meeting back in early February, and we knew we needed to quickly scale up our capability,” Lack responds.
“We have taken a number of extra measures including staffing-up our online teams and scaling our online business. This has been a challenge in the pandemic, but we have hired staff from businesses that have been affected by the pandemic, increasing our manpower this way, to cope with the increase in demand for our online services across Danube Online and the BinDawood App. We have increased our online presence significantly in the past month, from 13 stores online to 31,” BinDawood shares.
Customer buying behaviour has definitely changed, Latour confirms. “We have seen a significant number of our customers purchasing online. We have seen our online order increase almost 400-500% month-on-month. Alongside letting our customers order via WhatsApp and phone, we work with El Grocer and InstaShop to facilitate doorstep delivery. So, we are well-prepared.”
“We don’t see any issues in doing deliveries,” Vachani adds. “All our supermarkets are open 24 hours – this was the case even before the crisis – and well-geared for doorstep deliveries. Almost 40 years ago, we were among the first supermarkets in the UAE to start home deliveries and this has only improved over the years.” Meanwhile, Almaya Supermarkets are strictly following social distancing guidelines at its stores.
For home-grown business Ripe, the goal is to continue supporting the local SME community during Ramadan, inspiring its growers, makers and bakers. “And we hope our customer and the community will also help to support the local SMEs during this time,” says founder, Becky Balderstone.
“We have so many wonderfully talented home-grown businesses under the Ripe umbrella, offering everything from fruits and vegetables and fresh pressed juices to fish, meat, eggs, milk, freshly baked bread. There are tasty treats, superfoods, nut butters, jams, chutneys to cleaning products, beauty items and more. We not only stock them in our store but also include them in our home delivery options, therein supporting our local producers,” she concludes.
Tell us how your retail business is getting Ramadan-ready. Write to [email protected]