Daily Management Review

Online Grocery Demand Soars In Middle East Amidst The Covid-19 Pandemic


Online Grocery Demand Soars In Middle East Amidst The Covid-19 Pandemic
The advent of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the Middle East has seen a “fantastic surge” in demand for online groceries, according to an executive of a United Arab Emirates-based retail chain, who also believes that the trend will continue in the future too.
Between January to June this year, a 917 per cent spike in growth in online order have been reported by the supermarket operator Carrefour while a 257 per cent and 747 per cent growth was reported by the countries of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in the same period.
“Online has been ... soaring since the start of Covid, although we have been growing before,” said Alain Bejjani, CEO of retail giant Majid Al Futtaim. The company is the exclusive franchisee for Carrefour in the Middle East and Africa.
“There’s been a fantastic surge across the region,” he told the media in an interview.
Referring to a survey conducted by consulting company McKinsey, Bejjani said that this trend of online grocery shopping will continue even after the pandemic is over.
According to the McKinsey survey, a 31 per cent growth in users in the UAE for grocery delivery was reported in the period while 66 per cent of those who purchased grocery online said that they would continue to utilize this mode of grocery shopping even after the end of the pandemic. Similar results ere also found for Saudi Arabia.
“We’re seeing about ... 200% to 220% increase in the number of online customers on average across the region, and this is something that’s extremely promising,” Bejjani said.
There has been “better than expected” recovery across the region for industries apart from supermarkets, he said. Since early June, a “steady return” of consumers and an improvement in sale has been witnessed. However lower number of customers compared to the same time last year are visiting malls. Shoppers are also “much more value-conscious” now.
He expects that the slowest recovery will be staged by cinemas, hotels and the aviation industry.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the novel coronavirus has so far infected more than 18.1 million people globally and killed at least 691,738 of them. In the Middle East, the countries hardest hit by the pandemic include, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
With respect to economic and business activity returning to level before the pandemic, Bejjani said that it would take place only after the emergence of a vaccine against the disease which is likely to be in the first half of 2021.
“When it gets to business impact, I think 2022, hopefully, will be a year that will be similar to where we were in 2019,” he said.
The “big issue” will be economic security and consumer confidence, once people get over the pandemic or learn to and live with it, he said.
“At the end of the day, this is a crisis of trust,” he said. “For people to come back and consume, they need to have faith, we need to have a consumer confidence level that’s at a much better rate.”