Majid Al Futtaim banks on positive 2021

Despite the extraordinary events of 2020, Majid Al Futtaim’s full year performance demonstrated the resilience of its people and business model

  
A UAE retailer initiated the break up with single use plastic in 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose.

A UAE retailer initiated the break up with single use plastic in 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Majid Al Futtaim / Handout via Zawya
 

UAE - Majid Al Futtaim Retail has announced that it is on track to meet its targets for 2021, with an increased focus on digital transformation and the omni-channel experience aiding the group’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Philippe Peguilhan, country manager of Carrefour UAE at Majid Al Futtaim Retail, highlighted how the group had accelerated its plans to go digital to meet the needs of residents during the pandemic.

“When the pandemic first started, there was a 300 per cent increase in demand for Carrefour products in just a few weeks, so we had to adapt quickly to increase our stock levels and strengthen our local supply chain,” he said. “We experienced a sharp increase in the sales of electronics for those working and learning from home, plus, the popularity of home gym equipment soared 600 per cent as people sought to stay fit and healthy inside. Physical health and mental well-being became a huge priority for our customers, which accelerated the demand for fresh food and immunity-boosting products.”

Looking at the situation now, Peguilhan noted that retail “was never off track.”

“We were at the frontlines, ready to provide what our community needed in the hardest times,” he said. “As a leading retailer, we have a commitment to keep innovating and revolutionise the industry. The pandemic created an urgency to expedite our digital growth, and we successfully accelerated our 12-month digital transformation into a matter of days. The future of retail is an omni-channel experience that is constantly evolving. We are on track to launch projects that will be a first of their kind for the region, and adding new verticals beyond the traditional supermarket model to adapt to an ever changing world.”

A swift call to action

From the onset of the pandemic, Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) adopted a stakeholder-first strategy, including strengthening its engagement with governments across all markets, in which the company operates, to identify and implement measures to minimise the spread of the virus and overcome supply challenges derived from the pandemic. Amid government-mandated closures and lockdowns, MAF decided to forego rent at its 27 shopping malls across five markets to ease the financial burden on its tenants, while stores were temporarily closed.

One of the first calls to action during the early days of the pandemic involved activating an employee redeployment programme across the region, which saw more than one thousand leisure, entertainment, and cinema employees being reskilled to join the company’s Carrefour business on a temporary basis. These employees then assisted with online order fulfilment, food packing, and stock replenishment. In the first three weeks of March 2020, Carrefour recorded daily online sales increasing by 50 per cent compared to the same period in February.

In order to guarantee a sustainable supply of fresh fruit and vegetables across the country, MAF partnered with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in the UAE, to boost the availability of locally grown produce across Carrefour UAE stores, by opening new distribution channels for more than 6,000 small and medium-sized local farmers.

The company further accelerated its digital transformation journey to respond to the rapid shift to online with the launch of ‘Marketplace’ and ‘Trends at Your Doorstep’. This was in tandem with the introduction of ‘Click & Collect’ and ‘Mobile Scan & Go’. The company also partnered with the Department of Economic Development, Aramex, and Dubai Taxi Corporation to ensure speed and efficiency in fulfilling Carrefour online customer orders.

“The pandemic has not only been a financial crisis, but an even bigger crisis of trust,” said Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani, when highlighting the company’s 2020 results. “We have built our organisation to withstand adverse economic conditions, so our primary focus was on acting swiftly to protect our customers and employees, as we worked diligently to restore trust and maintain non-negotiable commitments to our sustainable business practices. The fact that we have experienced growth in some of our businesses during a year of unprecedented disruption is a testament to the importance that should always be placed on people, the planet and our collective progress.”

New experiences and future investment

Early in March this year, Majid Al Futtaim officially opened City Centre Al Zahia – its newest lifestyle and retail experience in the Northern Emirates.

Shireen El Khatib, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim - Shopping Malls, noted that City Centre Al Zahia is the only new super-regional mall to be launched in the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“City Centre Al Zahia is a testament to the resolve, commitment, and optimistic spirit of Sharjah and the wider Northern Emirates,” she said. “An immersive destination designed to bring people together, the mall is an achievement of hope and innovation in the face of adversity. In spite of the global challenges that have beset so many people, communities and businesses, we have remained as focused and diligent as ever to deliver yet another world-class offering – one that speaks to the confidence of consumers in the regional retail industry and our ability to create even more great moments for families to enjoy.”

Shortly after, MAF also announced its collaboration with e-grocery innovator, Takeoff Technologies, to launch an automated Micro Fulfillment Centre at its Carrefour store in Ibn Battuta Mall. Another first-of-its-kind facility in the Middle East, the digitised storage picking facility automates the task of managing orders, slashing the time required to process them by half. This is the first of three fulfillment centres to adopt advanced technologies and automation, with an additional two fulfillment centres set to implement Artificial Intelligence and autonomous robots in the first half of 2021.

“Just last month, we launched the first Micro Fulfillment Centre in the region at Carrefour Ibn Battuta mall which uses AI to dramatically enhance the e-commerce experience, and we have also rolled out Tally the robot across twelve stores to help with our inventory and stock keeping,” Peguilhan said.

Most recently, Carrefour, owned and operated by Majid Al Futtaim in the UAE, shared its theme and plans for Ramadan 2021. The brand hopes to make Ramadan more affordable for its communities with its ‘Together we Share’ campaign, investing over Dh30 million, which will be passed on to customers via offers and promotions available across its stores and online platform.

“After having carefully evaluated the current economic situation, we are investing more than Dh30 million into our 2021 campaign to allow everyone to enjoy the generous spirit of the Holy Month,” said Peguilhan.

 

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