Qatar's supermarket chains rush to meet increasing demand for variety

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Qatar’s high levels of wealth and car ownership, and its large number of malls, together make the country well suited to the development of large hypermarkets. The sector has been growing rapidly in recent years, with numerous homegrown, regional and international brands active in the industry or intending to launch their maiden stores shortly. The large number of shopping malls due to open in coming years will also bring about a further rise in the number of large-scale grocery facilities operating in the country.

Growing Sector 

In its 2017 “GCC Retail Industry” report, investment bank Alpen Capital describes the supermarket and hypermarket retail segment as “underdeveloped” in Qatar. This is particularly the case when the country is compared to the UAE, “one of the earliest adopters of modern retail formats” in the region, the bank notes. However, the sector is expanding rapidly, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4% expected between 2016 and 2021: the third-fastest in the GCC, behind Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with expected CAGRs of 5.5% and 5%, respectively.

Major Players

Major players in the Qatari grocery retail market include local firm Al Meera, which operates 42 hypermarkets and supermarkets in the country, with a combined retail space of just under 68,000 sq metres, including a Géant-branded hypermarket operated in partnership with French retailer Casino. Casino, in conjunction with the Ali Bin Ali Group, also opened a Monoprix in the country in the West Bay area in 2013, and another branch of the chain opened in Doha Festival City. Another local player is the Qatar-based Saudia Group, which operates three hypermarkets in the country as well as several department stores and minimarts. The company recently expanded to the UAE, opening a Kenz-branded hypermarket in the emirate of Ajman in 2015, and plans to open branches in every emirate in the country in coming years.

French retail brand Carrefour, which has been present in Qatar for 16 years through a franchise held by Majid Al Futtaim, operates five hypermarkets in the country, all of which are based at shopping centres. The newest of these is the branch at Mall of Qatar, which opened in December 2016. The firm has branded the 14,000-sq-metre facility, which is designed to resemble a traditional market, as a “Mediterranean concept store”, the chain’s first in the Middle East. The firm also operates three supermarkets in the country.

The Abu Dhabi-headquartered Lulu Hypermarket (part of the Lulu Group International conglomerate) also operates five hypermarkets in Qatar, as well as two smaller outlets. All of its hypermarkets are stand-alone facilities, with the exception of Al Khor Mall. Other players include Quality Group International, which operates three hypermarkets in Doha as well as two malls, and the single-branch Safari hypermarket.

Anchor Tenants

Many of the larger hypermarkets in the country are based at local shopping malls. “Other than Lulu, most major operators such as Carrefour seem to prefer to anchor to large shopping centres,” Mark Proudley, director of DTZ Qatar, told OBG. “Hypermarkets are land-hungry and the cost of land has traditionally been quite high here, while major grocery retailers are often offered attractive terms to act as anchors in the larger shopping malls,” he said.

With numerous shopping centres opening in 2017 and 2018 (see overview), the number of major hypermarkets is set to grow further in coming years. For example, Doha Festival City, which opened its doors in April 2017, includes a Monoprix hypermarket, which at 7000 sq metres is the French chain’s largest branch in the world. A sixth branch of Carrefour is due to open at the Mirqab Mall in early 2018. The Tawar Mall will also bring the first Spar-branded hypermarket into the country in 2017, and the Dutch retailer has plans to open a total of five supermarkets and convenience stores before the end of the year. Place Vendôme, a luxurious mall due to be inaugurated in late 2018, will also include a currently undisclosed hypermarket.

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The Report: Qatar 2017

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