ABU DHABI // Majid Al Futtaim Group’s deal to acquire 26 Geant stores and rebrand them as Carrefour could bring the consumer lower prices, the head of its Middle East franchise group says.
Majid Al Futtaim has said that its plan to buy out the Geant stores in the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait will be good for shoppers, despite the fact it reduces choice in the market.
Alain Bejjani, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim, said the rebranding will be complete by the end of the year.
"The integration plan is on its way," Mr Bejjani said. "I expect it will be smooth and I expect it will be quite valuable from a customer standpoint."
He argued that customers would benefit not only from combined buying power, allowing it to offer competitively-priced products, but also a better in-store experience and easier online ordering.
"It will continue to be a very competitive market. So from that standpoint I wouldn’t worry.
"I think we have a track record where we consistently and sustainably make sure the benefits go to the customer in terms of the cost point of view being more competitive on the pricing side," he said.
"We will make sure that synergies will work in favour of the customer," he said. "They will get the Carrefour customer experience, they will get access to products that currently do not exist - Carrefour products and other stuff."
He said that Geant franchise owner Retail Arabia "didn’t have a significant online presence".
"They did an attempt a year ago but it didn’t work and after that, for logistical and technical reasons they weren’t - I think - ready for it. After that, they didn’t go back to it.
Majid Al Futtaim, meanwhile, has invested significantly in Carrefour’s online offering, he said.
"We are building our digital presence that we want to be as prominent as our physical presence and that also will be integrated as one."
Members of Geant’s current customer loyalty programme will join Carrefour’s MyClub scheme.
Majid Al Futtaim on Thursday announced that it was buying the 26 Geant stores from Retail Arabia’s parent company BMA International. It is also buying four Gulfmart stores in Bahrain.
In the UAE, the number of Carrefour stores will increase by 13 to 80. In Bahrain and Kuwait, the firm will have 11 and eight Carrefour stores respectively.
Retail Arabia employs about 3,261 staff, and Mr Bejjani said that these would all join the 36,709 staff at Majid Al Futtaim.
"We are committed to make sure that people keep their jobs," he said.
David Macadam, chief executive of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres, said that he believed Majid Al Futtaim’s takeover of Geant stores is "a good thing for consumers".
"In retail, it’s all about market share and scale," said Mr Macadam.
"When you have competitors like Geant, they’re not able to buy at the right price anyway and they lose money when they are buying without scale. When Carrefour takes them over, they have scale already, they have buying power, so in fact it makes things cost effective for everyone."