Online grocery sales soar in Middle East, trend may continue


Online demand for groceries has seen a “fantastic surge” in the Middle East during the coronavirus pandemic, and the trend may be here to stay, a retail executive based on CNBC told CNBC this week. in the United Arab Emirates.Online orders from supermarket operator Carrefour soared 917% in Saudi Arabia from January to June this year, while the United Arab Emirates and Egypt saw increases of 257% and 747% respectively on the same period.

“Online has been… booming since the launch of Covid, even though we’ve grown up before,” said Alain Bejjani, CEO of retail giant Majid Al Futtaim. The company is the exclusive franchisee of Carrefour in the Middle East and Africa.

“There has been a fantastic surge in the region,” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” Tuesday.

This trend could last beyond the pandemic, Bejjani said, citing an investigation by consulting firm McKinsey.

The survey results showed that the delivery of groceries saw a 31% increase in the number of users in the UAE, with 66% saying they intended to continue using the service after the end of the service. health crisis. Similar statistics have been reported for Saudi Arabia, according to McKinsey.

A vendor waits for customers at the Dubai Spice Souk on July 20, 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.Francois Nel | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“We’re seeing an increase of about… 200% to 220% in the number of average online customers in the region, and that’s something extremely promising,” Bejjani said.

Beyond supermarkets, he said the recovery had been “better than expected” across the region. There has been a “steady return” from consumers and improvement since early June, although malls are still seeing fewer customers compared to a year ago. Buyers are also “much more value conscious” now.

Cinemas, hotels and the aviation industry will likely be the slowest to recover, he said.

More than 18.1 million people have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 691,738 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In the region, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been the hardest hit.

Asked when activity could return to pre-pandemic levels, Bejjani said this would likely only happen when a vaccine becomes available, possibly in the first half of 2021.

“When it comes to the business impact, I think 2022 will hopefully be a year that will be similar to where we were in 2019,” he said.

He added that once we get past the pandemic or learn to live with it, the “big problem” will be economic security and consumer confidence.

“At the end of the day, it’s a crisis of confidence,” he said. “In order for people to come back and consume, they have to have confidence, we have to have a much better level of consumer confidence.”


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