Jan 29

Supermarket Wars

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.  




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    • Mafaza on January 29, 2017 at 9:27 am
    • Reply

    Oh this was a nice read. I sure have shopped at local grocery, butcher and veg sellers in sri lanka but not much in dubai.
    Out of all I think the c4 send 200 on a particular section and get 450 points is just a waste of paper. For 50 dirhams we are supposed to spend 200 or more 😂
    I love shopping at c4 though. It’s all organised and easily accessible I think.

    1. if you use your club card well you will get money back regularly and extra discounts on certain products.

  1. I’ve been in Dubai long enough to realize that I can never get all my shopping done from a single place. Its a fair mix of Union, Carrefour, Lulu and Geant for me. Although, I do tend to shop at Spinneys quite a bit as I’m generally very satisfied with their cuts, quality and presentation of chicken/fish/meats. Then there are other little things like grilled chicken, exotic salads (particularly kale and walnuts) and mini fruit tarts at the bakery.

    1. Happy to hear that you do, like me shop around a bit. It can make a huge difference. Recently I have started bulk buying items when they are discounted and storing them. Something I never used to do.

    • Busy Mum on January 29, 2017 at 10:41 am
    • Reply

    What about online shopping via kibsons, arabind fish etc.?

    1. the only on line people I use are Gulf Seafoods, they are superb!

  2. Great article! This is going to be very helpful for those who are new in UAE!

  3. Yesterday was shopping day for us and we tried LULU and found a little expensive than Carrefour (our usual place). Not much of offers also to fight with others. So we bought few things. We still ended up buying the rest of the stuffs in Carrefour wherein yah we are one of those loyal customers who has this Club Card. We got instantly 75AED back after worth of AED300 on that day. Happy customers 🙂

    1. I was always a huge fan of Lulu, but the call of the club card and the fact that cat litter is nearly 10 dhs cheaper in Carrefour than Lulu was the final straw for me, I switched.

  4. Management from GEANT contacted me and asked me to post these benefits of their HappyMe app ….

    1) Points collection based on spending (as per all other loyalty card schemes)
    2) happyME thankyou voucher redemption – based on points accumulated and earn points on points (you still earn points on your voucher redemption purchases)
    3) happyME essentials – a permanent selection of 40 everyday items that members will be able to purchase cheaper than non-members
    4) happyME deals – a weekly selection of items on special offer to members only – geo-located to the store closest to you but with a list for all stores offers
    5) happyME coupons – very specific coupon deals for members only
    6) happyME points boosters – specific products for members only that boost points values
    7) Last ten transactions – look through your last purchases at a receipt and item level. Copy items previously purchased to your next shopping list
    8) Shopping lists – create multiple shopping lists
    9) Group accounts – add family/friend members to collect points together and share shopping lists
    10) Warranty card – keep a copy of your warranty card directly in the app
    11) Refer a friend – refer family and friends and both gain extra points when your family / friend starts shopping
    12) Access to the regular leaflet promotions directly in the app without having to wait for it to be delivered to your door
    13) Location based notifications to remind you of special offers when you get close to the store (permission based)
    14) Access to Geant Online (link from the app)
    15) Choose your own background color scheme and profile photo to customize the app
    16) Find a store – based on your geolocation find the closest store to you.

  5. I too just find it all so expensive! I’ve been experimenting with what works best – small daily shops for the evening meal, one-two weekly bulk shops, or ordering groceries online. It all works out similar (aka eye-wateringly expensive), so my husband and I have agreed that we just shop for good, quality food, regardless of the price (as its our health at the end of the day). I need to get smarter with meal planning, that’s for sure!

    1. read my grocery shopping on a budget that might help you out a bit 🙂

  6. Great article! At home in Australia it is still easy (and widely practised) to shop local and buy from butchers, bakers, farmers markets, local bulk stores and other locally owned stores. I know realise we are spoilt in the fact we can even buy and have our meat delivered, direct from the farmer in some areas. A lot of people I know have actually ‘divorced’ the big supermarkets in favour of buying and supporting local. I, like Priyanka, favour Spinneys but am in the routine of shopping between 2 or 3 stores to complete my shopping list here in the UAE.

    1. I think many people are now shopping around, I use Carrefour, Farmers Market, Choithrams (on Tuesdays) and Organic Supermarket, thanks for dropping by 🙂

  7. Don’t forget Park n Shop – they have a loyalty card and their outlet in DIP is like a shopper’s dream – big wide aisles, and two floors of shopping, a clearance section right by the cashiers. I do find their prices one of the most expensive of the lot and only go once in a blue moon to stock up on very specific items. With the new road that just opened up, it’s often faster now to get to their DIP branch from Barsha (about 15 minutes door to door) than it is to get to the Al Wasl one.

    And in the last few months, I’ve noticed that there are also instant paper coupons placed by the products (I have used for cereal bars and other food products at Carrefour) which I’ve never seen here before.

    And also online shopping: almost all the stores have an online shop now. Geant is the cheapest but their online store is so slooooooow it makes my blood boil. It takes 5 minutes sometimes to put one item in the shopping cart. I’d rather pay a premium somewhere else for faster website.

    Anyway, I could go on and on forever about food shopping…

    1. I could go on and on forever too which is why I stopped when I did, the post would have been too long. I don’t do on-line shopping as I like to see what I buy. Will check out that PnS one of these days. Thanks Sandy x

  8. I do all my shopping at co-op or carrefour but prefer carrefour for really big shopping! lots of choices, better prices and off course the points thing! Great one, thanks for sharing

    1. thanks for sharing, I prefer Carrefour as I feel I get better value for money and Club Points!

  9. I never did worry about the prices either, until I noticed the bill going up week on week for the same groceries. Tedious as it is, the smart shopper now has to pick the best of the deals these supermarkets offer.

    1. The supermarkets certainly are starting to realise that they don’t have a captive market 🙂

  10. For me, each Grocery / Supermarket has its own special feature. For example, when it comes to bulk shopping, we go for Union Coop, then for good deals it’s Carrefour, then for freshness/organic items it would be Spinneys, etc etc. It’s always to nice to have options. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    1. I had a good look round the co-op the other week before I wrote this article and I am positive Carrefour is cheaper, especially when it comes to detergents and cleaning stuff. Thanks for popping by Diorella 🙂

  11. We have been loyal to Lulu until we started noticing early last year that their prices have went up, I still go to them though for most vegetables. I agree C4 has much more better deals specially if you are a card holder.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. yes I have to agree with you on LULU, prices slowly crept up!

  12. Super helpful post! I personally do not shop from only one supermarket as I try to hunt for the best deals. My main go-to are Nesto, Lulu and Carrefour thanks to their loyalty cards and weekend deals.

    1. It definitely pays to shop around, thanks for popping in 🙂

  13. This is so on point!! Your comparison is very true; something I too was pondering upon.

    I was at the union coop on their first 50 % off, and my my… what a crowd it was!!

    There are other supermarkets like Manama, Shop n Save (Maya Lals) & Safeer (in sharjah) which offer weekly 3 days promotions.

    But the BESTEST of all offers are by NESTO who started these lowest prices waayyy before coop. Their rates are unbelievably low on the same products which coop n C4 sell.

    Its a tough competition but good that the supermarkets have realised the consumer power!!

    1. Never heard of NESTO is it a Sharjah one?

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