By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Carrefour has transformed a majority of its outlets into 'mini-fulfillment' centres to meet demand, according to Majid Al Futtaim Retail CEO Hani Weiss
Carrefour’s online orders have spiked 300 percent year-on-year as a result of people shopping to keep themselves well-stocked at home amid the ongoing coronavirus.
The sharp increase has forced the company to transform many supermarkets and hypermarkets into fulfillment centres, according to Majid Al Futtaim Retail CEO Hani Weiss.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Weiss said that the increase was a result of increased purchases of basic commodities such as food, as well as hygienic products – particularly soap, sanitizers and masks –as well as a “huge” rise in the sale of freezers, printers and routers.
“It’s a mix of everything. People were anticipating working from home and also stocking up, and [preparing] for their kids to study at home,” he added.
Additionally, Weiss added that there has been a 55% rise in-store purchases in the first two weeks of March, even as the number of customers physically visiting outlets falls as a result of concerns about the coronavirus and increasingly stringent lock down regulations.
“We have seen a drop in the average number of customers, but definitely a much higher average basket because people were stocking up,” he said. “If you ask me whether the increase in average basket covers the loss of customers, I’d say definitely yes. Online sales came on top, and beyond, the physical store shopping.”
To do so, Weiss said that Carrefour has transformed the majority of its supermarkets and hypermarkets into “mini-fulfillment centres” that cater to orders of all sizes.
“One of the things I’m proudest of is that the team was agile enough to transform 2,000 metres in one of our stores – which wasn’t performing very well – into a fulfillment centre that can cater to 2,000 additional orders,” he said. “We had to do that in less than 5 days.”
Weiss also said he believes that Carrefour’s customers are unlikely to completely return to their traditional methods of shopping in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
“In the UAE we have a great opportunity to change customer habits,” he said. “Customers are now used to mobile apps and web stores, and I [foresee] that it will be very difficult for them to come back to enjoy normal shopping experiences as they did in the past. They’ll find [online shopping] much more convenient.”
On Sunday, Carrefour sent out a statement noting that while shopping malls in the UAE remain closed, its outlets remain open and fully stocked for customers, operating at regular hours.