UAE-based Urban Foods, a strategic partnership between Meraas and Dubai Holding, is on an expansion spree, bringing its licenced brands Géant, Franprix and soon-to-launch Monoprix closer to communities across the emirates. The plan is to open six more stores by the end of 2020, including five Géant stores and possibly one Monoprix.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were already leaning towards proximity grocery shopping. The pandemic has made this shopping behaviour more pronounced. With its network of convenience stores, supermarkets and soon hypermarkets, Urban Foods was prepared for this disruption, as most of its stores are close to the communities.
As such, Urban Foods opened a Franprix supermarket in Acacia – C, Dubai Hills Estate; and the convenience store format Géant Express at Emaar Golf Estates and earlier at Vida Emirates Hills. What’s more, Urban Foods will soon relaunch the Géant Hypermarket in Al Khawaneej followed by another at the Dubai Hills Estate in 2021.
“It feels great to have relaunched the Géant brand in the UAE, amidst great customer response. We made some adaptations within the Express format to make it warmer and friendlier. The flooring, made using tile and wood, is done in a manner that helps in navigating from one section to another. These adaptations have been well-received by the customers,” states Mark Lack, CEO, Urban Foods. “And soon the hypermarket format will also be open to the public.”
Along with new design elements, greater emphasis has been placed on healthy, organic and free-from product categories. “After all, customers have been drifting towards these categories for a while,” Lack observes. “In addition, the ‘world foods’ section has always been quite popular at Géant and we have it in the Express format too. It helps our customers to get a piece of their home right here at Géant.”
While food products sourced from across the world has its benefit and audience, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to procure locally in order to secure food supplies.
“No business could have pre-planned to react to a pandemic of this scale. However, as the pandemic became apparent, we quickly deployed a business continuity plan to secure stock of certain items. We put in place a robust inventory management plan to ensure enough stock at all times,” Lack responds. “In addition, we are always trying to work as much as possible with multiple local suppliers, including small and medium enterprises. After all, today, customers are also more concerned about carbon footprint and product traceability.”
Like most grocery retailers, the Urban Foods brands also witnessed a “dramatic” rise in e-commerce transactions. “From a one-two-hour delivery timeline, we had to put in place a three-day prior booking system due to the rise in demand for online grocery shopping, especially amidst the COVID-19 related lockdown,” Lack recollects. “Our delivery partners InstaShop and Quiqup did a great job of fulfilling the orders. In addition, the F&B executives from Meraas also helped us to keep pace with the dramatic rise in orders.”
“Going forward, we are looking to develop our own online presence for all three brands aligned with a loyalty programme to offer a differentiated experience,” he reveals.
As Urban Foods is on an expansion spree, Lack also highlights the key role that the team has played throughout the pandemic to ensure every store opening happened successfully. “Not only that, our people, the Urbanites, have always served customers with a smile. For us, they are true heroes. And on our part, we have undertaken all possible measures to ensure the highest level of safety for our people and customers,” he concludes.