Spar International is to launch in the Middle East with nine stores in the UAE, part of a global expansion into emerging markets.
The retailer has opened a supermarket near the Corniche in Abu Dhabi and will open a hypermarket in the capital in the next few months.
"As part of our strategic plan, we are looking to develop Spar in new and emerging markets, so we have focused very strongly on getting a presence in Russia, China and India and have succeeded in that," said Gordon Campbell, the managing director for Spar International. "The next area that we are now looking at is the Middle East."
Abu Dhabi Co-Operative Society is the regional partner for Spar International. The tie-up is expected to be formally announced next month.
Mr Campbell says the brand aims to open "at least" nine stores throughout the UAE by 2013 and will also launch in other countries in the region in that time.
Spar is one of the world's biggest retailers, with about 12,000 stores, operating in more than 30 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
"The other market that we are expanding strongly in is southern Africa," said Mr Campbell. "We are number two in South Africa with a market share of 29 per cent."
Spar enters a competitive retail landscape in the UAE with well-established hypermarket players such as LuLu, Géant and Carrefour.
There has also been an evident push this year by big retailers into community, local and convenience retailing, with Almaya, Carrefour Market, LuLu Express and Zawya all expanding stores.
"The big challenge is that the market is pretty saturated already and the bigger challenge is finding the right locations," said David Macadam, the head of retail for the Middle East and North Africa at Jones Lang LaSalle.
Mr Campbell said Spar would not be introducing its convenience stores to the UAE in the near future.
The supermarket in Abu Dhabi is 1,870 square metres and will focus on fresh produce and food-to-go options, which Mr Campbell says are lacking in the capital.
Meanwhile, the hypermarket will be 4,000 sq metres and have a range of private labels, but Mr Campbell would not disclose the location. "What will set us apart is that we have a strong focus on fresh foods, vegetables, delicatessens, meats and fish," he said.
"What's different in the UAE is that there are many different nationalities and so you have to cater for those."