ABU DHABI // Supermarket chains plan to open scores of local shops this year to replace the hundreds of groceries forced to close last week.
Circle K is launching between 15 and 20 new stores, Spar and Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society between 30 and 35, and Select Express about 20.
Many will offer home delivery, a key demand of customers frustrated by the closure of the groceries by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority for failing to meet its new food storage and hygiene standards, which came into force on January 1.
The authority said on Monday that shops from companies such as Spinneys, Snacks, Adnoc Oasis, Select Express, Waitrose, Spar and others would replace them.
“We just started now, we’re in negotiations with the landlords on their locations in Abu Dhabi,” said Fahmi Al Shawa, managing director of Circle K.
Mr Al Shawa said he expected them to open in the next couple of months.
They will vary in size between 46 and 120 square metres, and the intention is to offer home delivery.
He said the new regulations were long overdue and there was a tendency in the region to overlook standards, which put customers at risk.
“When you talk about dairy products that are not properly refrigerated or handled, these are items that can cause food poisoning, so I’m a big supporter of the move,” he said.
“We always had standards for big hypermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants, but this sector seems to have been overlooked for the longest time.
“You see it across the world. If you look at Asia and Europe, groceries must adhere to standards.”
Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society plans to eventually open about 150 shops with Spar, for which it holds the licence.
“We don’t have a timeframe yet but we are targeting about 30 to 35 shops in the first year,” said Bejoy Thomas, Spar’s chief operating officer in the Middle East. “We plan to open periodically.”
The first Spar Express is expected to open in the Tourist Club area this month.
“Once we evaluate, review and perfect the model for the market, then it will be rapid fire,” Mr Thomas said.
The shops will cover between 75 and 250 sq metres and will also provide home delivery.
“If stores like ours can come about and offer the right products at reasonable pricing and give home delivery, it becomes a realistic proposition for the shopper,” Mr Thomas said.
There will also be more Abu Dhabi Co-op Express shops.
“We’re planning an expansion but we’re not sure how many shops yet,” said Georges Mojica, Abu Dhabi Co-op’s general manager.
Select Express is planning to open a new shop on Airport Road by the end of the month.
Others will open later in Al Reef. The 420 sq metre shops will also offer home delivery.
“Everyone can see now that most customers are having difficulties in getting their products because of the sudden action,” said Select Express’ head of supermarket division, who wished to remain unnamed. “Groceries should have been given more time. It’s a one-man show and we have to respect these people that have been operating for so many years.”
Spinneys plans a number of smaller stores in Abu Dhabi under the Spinneys Market brand.
“We are waiting on approval for a number of sites, which we will announce closer to the opening dates,” a spokesman said.
Other chains including Al Safa, Choithram, Adnoc Oasis, Geant and Carrefour said they were unable to comment as yet.
*An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote about Select Express to Spar's Bejoy Thomas