Are we starting to experience supermarket wars here in the UAE?
Do you remember a time when you headed down to the High Street to do your weekly shop? When you popped into the individually owned fruit n veg shop, the local butcher, the friendly baker? I do, clearly though I am guessing many of you who are reading this really are the generation of supermarket shoppers, who never got to know the family owned local shops. Many of these shops had been owned by the same families for generations. Recently everyone I speak to has commented about how expensive it is to live here in Dubai, this time the topic of conversation though is the supermarkets not the rents.
For many years I used to hop into my car and head to Spinneys to do my weekly shop. I have no recollection of checking the prices of any items that ended up in the trolley, nor do I recall having conversations with people about how much I had spent that week on grocery shopping. That is all different today, what you spend on shopping and how you can save on your weekly shopping bill has become a hot topic. So much so that I feel a shift in the attitude of the major supermarkets here in the UAE.
The Union Co-Op
Its been around forever and has always been a firm favourite with our Emirati friends. Earlier this year all of their Tamayaz card holders were informed of a 50% sale on all toiletries, for one day only. This was subsequently followed by 50% off all their fresh chicken products. You don’t have to be a Tamayaz card holder to avail these special discounts. It was the first time I had ever heard of a promotion of this nature ever. Information can be found about the Tamayaz card via this link.
I knew it wouldn’t belong before Carrefour retaliated to the one day discount days at the Co-Op. We didn’t have to wait long to see them also offering 50% off all toiletries, but they took it one step further and offered 50% of all their cosmetics too. The Carrefour loyalty card, the Club Card I am guessing the probably the most popular card among shoppers in the UAE.
The more points you rack up on your card, the more rewards you get. There are regular promotions in store offering you extra club points for buying certain products. Shopping is a real science these days at the people at Carrefour are taking it all rather seriously. One week I bought no fruit and vegetables at all, when I paid for trolley of shopping the till generated a voucher enticing me to spend 80 AED on fruit and vegetables, to receive 200 Club points. Anyone in the know with Carrefour knows that 500 points results in a 50 AED voucher to spend in store, clever? very. The message is clear, if you are loyal to them, then they will reward you. Details about the Club Card and its benefits can be found here.
Geant are regularly holding huge discount sales, mainly on electrical items. They have also launched an app which offers benefits to its shoppers. Personally I feel it doesn’t give as much in terms of benefits as Carrefour does. Their HappyMe app can be found in the app store, its worth downloading if you are regular shopper at Geant.
If I had a dirham from every person who had recently told me how expensive Spinneys had become, I would be a rich woman. My relationship with Spinneys ended a long long time ago. I do pop in occasionally but in terms of a shopper it gives nothing back. They hold Monday Market days where selected items are offered at a reduced rate. No loyalty card to encourage you to part with your hard earned cash. No point. However they do offer Air Miles to shoppers, which I am guessing appeals to some people.
With all this talk of supermarket wars I didn’t find it surprising when out of the blue two weeks ago Choithrams launched Twos’day Tuesdays. One day only event where selected items are slashed by 50% and other items are buy one get one free. I have visited on both Tuesdays and picked up some great bargains. You can register your telephone number in any store to receive whatsapp updates on their promotions. No loyalty card yet but trust me all of the supermarkets not offering loyalty cards will be looking into their options.
I used to do all my shopping in Lulu (not meat though), but in the last year I have jumped ship to Carrefour. The prices in Lulu in my opinion have slow crept up and up. The fruit and vegetable section will always be fresh and second to none as I think the majority of their customers are vegetarian which explains why their Butchery is not the best. Another big player that I reckon will be introducing a loyalty card in the not too distant future. Watch this space!!
I could write about many other supermarkets who are all enticing us to spend our money with them, but I think the main players above are enough for now. A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about Grocery Shopping on a Budget, many of my comments still stand. You can find a copy of that here.
To summarise my first paragraph about shopping being done in different shops, I think there is a shift in how we shop these days. I think people will shop around and visit more than one supermarket to make sure they get the best deals. I know it isn’t always easy with the busy lives we lead but if you can you should keep an eye on what ALL the supermarkets have on offer. This should make your dirham go that little further.