Shopkeepers 'face ruin' as renovation deadline nears

Store owners say renovating their corner shops in 2012 may drive many out of business.

4-Dec-2011, Abu Dhabi. 
Hanef paramel, India, stuff member, Abu Backer Grocery, 40 years old.
New regulation for the groceries around Abu Dhabi is to change the shops till next year in specific standard to follow the vision 2030. Fatima Al Marzouqi/ The National
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ABU DHABI // Facing a 2012 deadline to meet new government guidelines for renovating their shops, some grocery store owners in the capital foresee financial ruin.

Beeran Kattil said he could not afford the Dh120,000 to Dh150,000 it would cost to remake his Al Ittihad area store, Munim Grocery.

"No money," said Mr Kattil, 55, who has operated a grocery here for 20 years. When his licence expires, he will close his shop and go home to India, he said.

On Saturday, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) set a December 31, 2012, deadline for groceries in the capital to comply with new rules that will standardise the city's estimated 1,300 corner shops so they resemble petrol station minimarts, with less clutter, computerised tills, uniformed employees and safer food storage.

Owners will need three to eight weeks to implement the changes, officials say.

Businesses that do not make the changes will lose their licences when they come up for renewal, said Mohammed Jalal Al Reyaysa, the director of communication and community service for ADFCA.

The new shops will be more consumer-friendly, Mr Reyaysa said.

"As for the grocery owners, they stand to gain as well," he said in a statement. "Businesses will become more competitive and conform to international standards. Once the new system is implemented, it will result in more consumer satisfaction, which in turn will boost businesses."

Grocery shop owners and employees, however, said the changes would hit them in their pockets in three ways. First they must pay for renovations. Then they will lose revenue while their shops are closed for the work. Finally, revenue will decrease when they re-open, some predicted.

Shops will not be able to carry as much merchandise under the new storage requirements, said Hanif Paramel, 40, from India, an employee at Abu Backar Grocery in Al Ittihad.

Faisal, owner of a grocery near Muroor Road, said: "There won't be enough space for things to keep.

"The vision is good, but what they are saying ... they are not giving support."

At an estimated Dh4,500 per sq metre, renovation costs will hit more than Dh200,000 for his shop, he said. And the work will take several months.

"The customers, what will they do?" he asked.

In January, ADFCA plans to open an information centre to help shop owners comply with the new rules, Mr Al Reyaysa said. The agency also plans to create and distribute a renovation instruction manual by the end of the month.

However, Faisal said he felt caught between the rules and his budget. "They are seeing us as the enemy," he said. "They are not co-operating with us."