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Sun 6 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

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Union boss hits out at coop law limits in UAE

GM slams restrictions thwarting regional expansion and reveals plans for world's biggest hypermarket.

GM slams restrictions thwarting regional expansion and reveals plans for world's biggest hypermarket.

The GM of Dubai's Union Coop has blasted the existing Co-Op Law in the UAE, which prevents it from building stores in the other emirates.

"I call it the No-Law. They have the private law attracting global companies to the Middle East and they give me a law that could kill me, 99.9% of co-op professionals would agree," said Khalid Humaid Bin Diban Al Falasi.

The company, which currently represents 40% of coop sales and is "probably the fastest growing coop in the UAE," is "working hard" to open its first store in Ajman, as part of its strategy, which involves business "covering other areas."

"We hope that the Government will look into updating this law, which was developed in the 1970s and is stopping us from entering Ajman, whereas other companies are allowed to go there," he said.

Companies based in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also approached the retailer with opportunities, Al Falasi revealed, and "the retail industries are growing in the other emirates."

In an exclusive interview with Retail News Middle East, Al Falasi revealed the retailer will announce a series of changes in the coming months, after entering negotiations for a string of lucrative partnerships.

Al Falasi revealed the retailer could strike a deal with Dubai-based supermarket chain Emirates Co-Op. "We are now talking about a having a joint venture. We are still negotiating that deal, but the plan is for us to become one coop."

The retailer also intends to open the biggest hypermarket in the world to date. The store, to be located in Al Barsha, is tipped to open in May next year.

"Wal-Mart is opening a new store in the US, but we will not know the size of that until the end of this year, so we are aiming to be the largest in the world or the Middle East."

Union has developed a new format, Super Coop, as part of a joint venture with electronics retailer Sharaf DG, and the stores will boast spacious furniture and electronics sections and a supermarket under one roof.

The company currently operates eight stores, and three more will open within a year.

"We currently have two styles: supermarkets and hypermarkets, but we are going for something new called Super Coops, the first to be located in Al Barsha and Al Muhaisnah. We have not yet chosen a furniture company to work with."

The retailer's new Jumeirah store, its strongest location, is set to open later this month.

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