A Conversation with Hani Weiss, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Retail

Majid Al Futtaim is a Leading Driver of Economic Growth in the MENA Region, With Carrefour, One of the Largest Hypermarket Chains in the World, Being a Notable Success in the Retail Sector. We Speak to Hani Weiss, Chief Executive Officer, Majid Al Futtaim – Retail, to Find Out How Carrefour is Approaching the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The Zone: How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted your business, and how will
you recover from its aftermath?

Hani Weiss: While Covid-19 continues to create significant challenges for retailers, at Carrefour, we are activating numerous initiatives to ensure our colleagues and customers receive the support needed. Despite the challenges, I am pleased to say we have witnessed double-digit growth in in-store sales and triple-digit growth in online sales. Notable examples have been seen in sales of multi-purpose home cleaning products increasing by around 490% and sales of liquid soap by closer to 1,000%. This data illustrates how we must move swiftly to ensure our stores are capable of remaining operational without disruption and are fully stocked with the essentials required. Furthermore, we will maintain price levels across all stores during this time. Covid-19 has shown that all companies must be astute and innovative to guarantee continuous delivery on the range, value, quality and service delivered, which I am pleased to say Carrefour has accomplished.

The Zone: How are you coping with supply chain disruption?

Hani Weiss: At Carrefour, we are focused on ensuring the robustness and security of our supply chain as a number one priority. We are using advanced analytics to monitor stock levels and identify categories where additional stock is required. In some cases, we have been able to identify certain essential products and increased stock levels accordingly to secure two to three months and even six months of supply. To further bolster our omnichannel offering, we have recently launched an online marketplace at carrefouruae.com, an initiative we have been working on for the past eight months and have accelerated due to the economic reality brought about by the pandemic. At present, carrefouruae. com lists more than 250,000 products.

The Zone: What plans does Carrefour have in place as lockdown is gradually eased?

Hani Weiss: Carrefour sources a large portion of its food through local or regional suppliers. As circumstances in the UAE slowly return to normal, we will continue to enhance our long-standing commitment to prioritising local suppliers. Indeed, we have recently collaborated with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) on a new initiative to boost the availability of locally grown produce across Carrefour stores in the UAE. This programme will help open new distribution channels for more than 6,000 small and medium-sized local farmers and provide a sustainable supply of fresh produce across the country.

The Zone: How will you continue to ensure the wellbeing of your staff, particularly ‘frontline’ workers such as those in stores?

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Hani Weiss: The health and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers remain a top priority, and we have put in place several stringent measures to ensure our supermarkets are safe. As part of our routine policy, employees handling food and those behind the counters are to follow a set of strict food and safety protocols. Furthermore, in compliance with the guidelines provided by the authorities in each of the markets we operate in, any employee displaying flu-like symptoms will be immediately instructed to undergo the required medical assessment and receive the support and medical attention needed.

The Zone: How do you see the next six months progressing for Carrefour and the retail industry in general in the UAE and the wider region?

Hani Weiss: While we cannot say for sure what the world will look like post-Covid-19, we believe the retail sector will have an advantage as a core sector that has been fluid and transformative. Shoppers have not disappeared but rather changed their habits, particularly when it comes to e-commerce. We have seen a growing trend towards a more omnichannel approach to shopping. In a post-Covid-19 world, we anticipate that customers will continue to look online to buy essential products such as fresh groceries. We also expect to see shopping habits shift towards a more western grocery shopping habit of periodic planning and purchasing rather than ad hoc daily visits to the store. To that end, Carrefour recently launched Click and Collect, a service that offers added flexibility and customer choice for all online orders and gives our customers greater control for contact free pick up of purchases.

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