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Is this the first of new coronavirus-friendly hypermarkets to open in the UAE?

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Urban Foods has expanded its offering in the UAE with the first hypermarket designed specifically for the coronavirus age.

The new Géant store at the Al Khawaneej Walk – Last Exit on Tuesday is the company’s 11th opening and first hypermarket in the city and is part of an expansion strategy of targeting up and coming residential and commercial communities across the city.

According to CEO Mark Anthony Lack, the opening is especially significant as it is the first post-Covid Géant hypermarket to open in the UAE and has been specifically designed to incorporate all the necessary safety factors and function with due safe distancing protocols.

The staff has also been specially trained to ensure that the shopping experience is the safest and securest possible.

He added: “We have gone deep into the need of the hour while retaining our standards and understanding the priorities of the comeback.

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“People want to shop unafraid and comfortably and this specific architecture allows for the browse factor which has disappeared in recent months. Dubai is forward-thinking and we follow suit. While being contemporary and welcoming, we also factor in the real situation and that challenge has been to make it Covid-free in as scientific a fashion as possible.”

The bricks and mortar expansion coincides with a report that shows the GCC e-commerce market is expected to reach $19.7 billion by the end of this year on the back of coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia is expected to claim the majority of the total ($8.3bn), followed by the UAE, with $7.5bn.

Global retail sales are projected to reach $25.04 trillion in 2021 and $26.7trn in 2022, according to Statista, an online tracker of global economy and retail sector.

Lack emphasised the priority given to staff training amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “We literally put them through a regimen while ensuring that their friendly and helpful nature that exemplifies the Géant experience was totally retained.

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“We wanted to make this 11th branch exceptional and raise the bar effectively for the industry. By making it Covid-resistant so to speak we have again established our credentials as the hypermarket that cares for its customers and will walk several aisles further than the rest.”

Urban Foods, a partnership between Meraas and Dubai Holding, currently operates established brands such as Geant, as well as new brands including Franprix and Monoprix, across communities in the UAE with stores measuring up to 10,000 square metres in size.

The new hypermarket opening comes as a recent survey showed that more than two-thirds of consumers in the Middle East and North Africa (69 percent) believe that the way they live their lives will significantly change in the long term as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The EY Future Consumer Index said that 84 percent of consumers declared that they have also changed the products they buy with a greater focus on value for money, and an increased commitment to consume locally made products.

Many consumer segments in the MENA region are adopting such values for the first time, with 68 percent saying that their values have changed, and they look at life differently. This will have implications for what and how they consume in the future.

Consumers said they expect to make deep and lasting changes, with 78 percent saying they will be more aware and cautious about physical health. In addition, 73 percent will be more focused on value for money in the future, with 67 percent planning to decrease the amount they spend on non-essentials.

While there has been a general ease of restrictions across some countries in the region, many consumers are still uncomfortable returning to their pre-COVID activities, with only 26 percent of MENA consumers saying they are comfortable going to a mall.