A supermarket chain established to encourage Emiratis into the retail sector has rekindled expansion plans put on hold following the financial crisis
Aswaaq, owned by Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), plans to open 15 new branches across the UAE over the next five years.
The company plans to establish three new branches each year across the Emirates.
The brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the company was founded in 2008 to foster national identity and to increase the number of Emiratis working in retail, from administration to front-line roles that were not traditionally filled by UAE nationals.
The group plans to open new mini local shopping centres anchored by Aswaaq supermarkets in Al Badaa, close to the World Trade Centre, and Al Barsha South, close to Mall of the Emirates, ICD said yesterday.
The company is currently conducting a feasibility study to establish further stores in new areas of Dubai such as Al Warqa, Al Khawaneej and Al Quoz.
Aswaaq currently operates seven supermarkets in Dubai, five of which are located within small company-owned and operated community shopping centres.
The announcement harks back to the ambitious expansion plans Aswaaq originally revealed in 2009 when the store said it hoped to open 30 outlets by 2013 and 40 by 2014 and ultimately to expand into other GCC countries.
At the time, the company said it hoped to eventually finance its expansion through an IPO but was waiting for market conditions to improve before going public.
It also comes as ICD, Dubai's main state-owned holding company which also holds stakes in Emirates Airline and Emaar, said it was considering selling stakes in its companies to the public as the emirate's economy recovers from the global financial downturn.
As well as employing a far higher proportion of Emirati nationals than other stores and selling fresh produce in a souq-style format, the company is known for offering Emirati entrepreneurs a 20 per cent discount on rent for three years in its neighbouring stores and help on how to establish their businesses legally and structurally.
"Our embraced shopping concept revolves around changing the pattern of customers' purchase based on shopping in large quantities overflowing their monthly needs," said Yousuf Sharaf, the deputy chief executive.
"The traditional market is another concept in which Aswaaq deeply believes. It hinges on providing the customers with an amazing shopping experience through the warm-hearted and friendly atmosphere."