Saudi online grocery shoppers to get helping hand from Carrefour robots

Carrefour is turning to robots to fulfil online grocery orders in the Kingdom. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Saudi online grocery shoppers to get helping hand from Carrefour robots

  • Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim has struck a deal with Takeoff, a US-based technology company that will automate online grocery purchases in the two countries
  • The Takeoff technology can process 2,000 orders per day from a space of 1,500 sq m

LONDON: Carrefour is set to use robots to pack online grocery orders in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim has struck a deal with Takeoff, a US-based technology company that will automate online grocery purchases in the two countries. Under the partnership, several micro-fulfilment centers will be built by next year.

Located at select Carrefour stores, these mini warehouses will process Carrefour’s online orders to replace the manual picking method currently used.

Customers will be able to place orders through Carrefour online with Takeoff’s automated technology ensuring that robots within the MFCs fulfil the order in less than 5 minutes for pick-up or delivery, Majid Al Futtaim said.

“Once in place, Majid Al Futtaim will be the first grocery retailer to use this technology in the Middle East as we look to scale up our e-grocery business," said Hani Weiss, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim — Retail.

Fierce competition among grocery retailers worldwide is encouraging the use of automation and technology to monitor and anticipate customer shopping habits.

The Takeoff technology can process 2,000 orders per day from a space of 1,500 sq m. The idea is that these mini fulfillment centers will be based within Carrefour stores located in communities where customers live and shop.

Carrefour is one of the largest hypermarket and supermarket chains in the world. The brand was launched in the region in 1995 by Majid Al Futtaim, which is the exclusive franchisee to operate Carrefour in over 30 countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

 


Oil slumps more than 4% on coronavirus fears

Updated 28 February 2020

Oil slumps more than 4% on coronavirus fears

  • Traders fret about impact of spreading virus on crude demand, particularly from China

LONDON: World oil prices tumbled by more than 4 percent on Thursday, as traders fretted about the impact of spreading coronavirus on crude demand, particularly from key consumer China.

Brent oil for April delivery tanked almost 4.2 percent to $51.20 per barrel, while New York’s WTI crude for the same month dived nearly 5 percent to $46.31.

“Concerns that the virus will prompt a global slowdown, weaker consumer confidence and reduced travel has raised concerns about lower demand, weighing on prices,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

Investors are growing increasingly fearful about the economic impact of the new coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak. 

The virus continues to spread meanwhile, with Brazil reporting Latin America’s first case, and Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Georgia, Norway and Pakistan following suit.

Around 2,800 people have died in China and more than 80,000 have been infected. There have been more than 50 deaths and 3,600 cases in dozens of other countries, raising fears of a pandemic.

The spread of the virus to large economies including South Korea, Japan and Italy has raised concerns that growth in fuel demand will be limited. 

Consultants Facts Global Energy forecast oil demand would grow by 60,000 barrels per day in 2020, a level it called “practically zero,” due to the outbreak.

US President Donald Trump sought to assure Americans on Wednesday evening that the risk from coronavirus remained “very low,” but global equities resumed their plunge, wiping out more than $3 trillion in value this week alone.

“The negative price impact would intensify if the coronavirus were declared pandemic by the World Health Organization, something that looks imminent,” said PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga.

“The mood is gloomy and the end of the tunnel is not in sight – there is no light ahead just darkness. Not even a refreshingly positive weekly US oil report was able to lend price support.”

Gasoline stockpiles dropped by 2.7 million barrels in the week to Feb. 21 to 256.4 million, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday, amid a decline in refinery throughput. Distillate inventories fell by 2.1 million barrels to 138.5 million.

US crude oil stockpiles increased by 452,000 barrels to 443.3 million barrels, the EIA said, which was less than the 2-million-barrel rise analysts had expected.

The crude market is watching for possible deeper output cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+.

“Oil is in freefall as the magnitude of global quarantine efforts will provide severe demand destruction for the next couple of quarters,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA. 

“Expectations are growing for OPEC+ to deliver deeper production cuts next week.”

OPEC+ plans to meet in Vienna on March 5-6.