High demand but no shortages in Saudi supermarkets

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Danube is training staff in various regions throughout the Kingdom in picking and packing foods and other products, given the current fears sparked by the pandemic. (SPA)
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Danube is training staff in various regions throughout the Kingdom in picking and packing foods and other products, given the current fears sparked by the pandemic. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 April 2020

High demand but no shortages in Saudi supermarkets

  • Commerce Ministry dealing with us closely to make sure people are getting what they want, says Danube co-founder

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Commerce is checking stocks on a daily basis and monitoring prices to ensure there is no shortage of goods or rise in the cost of essential commodities, according to Majed M. Al-Tahan, co-founder and managing director of Danube Online, the hypermarket chain.

“We have full support from the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Telecommunications and they are dealing with us closely to give whatever support we need to make sure people are getting what they want,” said Al-Tahan in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
He added: “In Danube Online, we are coping with it by scaling our operations every day, we are optimizing the packing, we are optimizing the routes, we are signing up with many delivery aggregators.”
“You can see that across all other platforms the demand is very high; people are trying to get all their deals through online platforms and all the players are trying to fulfill the needs as much as they can,” he said.




Majed M. Al-Tahan, co-founder and MD of Danube Online. (Supplied)


The response from customers was encouraging in the way that they were adapting quickly to online platforms, he said. Government authorities were asking people to stay at home and order through online platforms and delivery agencies as they were exempt from the 3 p.m. curfew measures.
On preparing staff to cope with the situation, Al-Tahan said: “We are continuously training and expanding the fleet.”
“We are having support from the scout groups through the Ministry of Commerce,” he said.
Danube was training staff in various regions throughout the Kingdom in picking and packing foods and other products, given the current fears sparked by the pandemic.
“We are in a very tricky business, we are trying to scale up with quality services and fulfilling safety guidelines,” Al-Tahan said.
“The online shopping experience is fully digital; we have stopped cash on delivery. We have stopped all our printed flyers and promotional materials and also replaced paper invoices with electronic invoices.”
“All these measures are to ease the operations and try to adapt as soon as possible because we don’t have time and need to comply with it,” he said.
Al-Tahan said that the hypermarket chain was dealing with very high demand.
“With Danube Online and the Danube app, in approximately the last 10 days we have seen average daily sales up over 200 percent and average order value up 50 percent compared to the same figures in February 2020.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• People are trying to get all their deals through online platforms and all the players are trying to fulfill the needs as much as they can, says Majed M. Al-Tahan.

• The response from customers was encouraging in the way that they were adapting quickly to online platforms, he says.

• Government authorities were asking people to stay at home and order through online platforms and delivery agencies as they were exempt from the 3 p.m. curfew measures.

Al-Tahan said that the number of app installations had jumped — nearly 400 percent higher compared to February.
“Trends wise, and what we have seen across our Danube Online product category sales (using similar dates as previously mentioned), the absolute top riser is body care, up by 461 percent, tissues and paper towels up by 160 percent, daily essentials up by 145 percent alongside a massive spike in beauty/personal care up by 208 percent and canned food up by 270 percent,” he said.
“Regular foods such as fruit and veggies are up by over 50 percent, dairy products are up by over 80 percent and cleaning and washing products are up by over 120 percent.”
He said that people were not panic buying or stocking up and buying in high quantities. “(They are) doing regular shopping as we see in the consumer’s behavior, having faith in retailers and assurances by the authorities,” he said.
Stocks were fully available, even of imported goods. He attributed the abundance of goods to the preparation people usually make for the holy month of Ramadan.
“This is the Islamic month of Shabaan, ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, so stocks are fully available and people need not to worry about it.”
Prices and stocks are being monitored regularly by the authorities to ensure stability in supplies according to consumer demand, he said.
“The Ministry of Commerce checks out stocks on a daily basis, monitoring the prices as well to ensure there is no spike in prices and shortage of goods,” he said.
Al-Tahan said that stores started online delivery after 3 p.m. due to regular offline shopping before the curfew hours.
Every retailer was committed to providing customers with essential products, he said, adding that the company was working as a partner in the retail business to serve customers, not as a competitor.
“We talk and work closely. We have our WhatsApp group, we do video conferencing and share our challenges to overcome it, and this is all to serve the people best.”


Local for local: Saudi businesses find inspiration close to home

Rawan’s Stationery offers mainly Arabic stationary items, agendas, cards for every occasion and Rawan Stationery-designed wrapping paper. (Supplied)
Updated 17 min 40 sec ago

Local for local: Saudi businesses find inspiration close to home

  • New brands discover lively demand for clothes and stationery that draw on regional designs

JEDDAH: Rather than aspire for globalized standards and designs, Saudi businesses have started looking inward to represent their surroundings and their cultures.
Surprisingly, the public has reacted favorably. On several occasions, business owners and founders were stunned to find their designs flourishing because people were invested in something that positively represented their identity.
Faisal Al-Hassan, a co-founder of Own Design, said that the most memorable encounter for the fashion brand was during last year’s brand pop-up in the MDL Beast Festival in Riyadh. “People were coming in to grab one of our pieces and they’d immediately leave. That really made us proud and happy seeing people from across the country are familiar with our brand,” he told Arab News.
Own Design started in 2009 when three young men from Alkhobar came together to make money out of their hobby. “We started Own Design as a small project with minimum funds. We were three kids with big dreams. None of us had any background in designing, I have a degree in public administration, but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love.”
Seven years on, the founders finally moved from makeshift offices in their homes to a concept store in the city.
“Every quarter, we launch a line with a specific theme. Our latest, the Sadu, has been exceptionally popular,” he added.

People welcomed us because there was something different about our stationery. They found products and designs in their mother tongue, which wasn’t available before.

Rawan Khogeer, Owner of Rawan Stationery

It was approximately three years ago that Sadu fabric became trendy, and Own Design wanted to take that design and introduce it into pullovers and then hoodies.
According to the brand’s Instagram, Sadu is “an ancient tribal weaving craft that artistically portrays Arabian nomadic people’s rich cultural heritage and instinctive expression of natural beauty.”
Sadu fabric is known by its vibrant red, green, white and black colors and seemingly geometric weaving.
Own Design’s clothes are designed to represent culture, with lines such as ODxKings featuring popular photographs of Saudi kings on auspicious occasions or popular quotes by them throughout history to merge “national themes with modern apparel.”
The clothing brand has also featured designs coinciding with the Kingdom’s G20 presidency, titled O20 and G20.
“Our designing process is very collaborative; we sit and discuss ideas and each member adds to what’s been said or alters the design in a way the others didn’t think of,” said Al-Hassan.
The brand is known for various limited edition apparel. Their Sadu line manufactures 400 pieces in each color due to the long production process; once it sells out, customers usually have to wait a year when the next Sadu line is launched.
“We’re approaching volume three of the Sadu design, while also collaborating with a special brand on a limited edition product,” he said.
“We have bountiful ideas that we want to showcase to the world, not just Saudi (Arabia) — we want to reach out to other Arabs,” said the co-founder. “(We want) to see foreigners wearing products that have a story.”
Another local business, Rawan Stationery, was started in early 2018 by Rawan Khogeer, a graphic design graduate. “People welcomed us because there was something different about our stationery. They found products and designs in their mother tongue, which wasn’t available before,” she told Arab News.
The market catered mostly to English content in stationeries. The limited Arabic content that was available was also not as pretty in comparison, said the founder.
From a young age, Khogeer’s pastime activity was to visit stationers. She delighted at the start of every term, merely because she got to shop.
She was always fascinated by gift-wrapping paper and the patterns on them. Whenever she visited a gift-wrapping shop, she pledged to open her own shop in the future.
While completing a training program at a company, Khogeer received the news that her mother had suffered an accident. Unable to find a suitable get-well card, she designed one herself.
“I decided to make her a card specifically for her, something that suited her taste, but I chose silver and gold colors, and printers would only print big batches; I was faced with the choice to either change the colors or go ahead with a large print run,” she said.
Khogeer chose the latter, and when her mother saw the card she was elated and told her daughter to start selling them.
Khogeer then went around small gift stores and stationers with her design, while running an Instagram account to publicize her brand. She was also looking into collaboration with stationers in Kuwait and, when they encouraged her, she expanded into the Gulf region.
“Demand was growing and the designs were increasing, and I felt like I’d found myself through this craft. At the same time, other work opportunities, although great, didn’t feel as fulfilling, so I approached Entrepreneurial Institute for support, and I never regretted that decision,” Khogeer said.
It was an adventure visiting governmental entities, carpenters and painters to get Rawan Stationery looking how it does today and fulfilling Khogeer’s dream of establishing a stationery/gift-wrapping store.
“I always wondered why stationers abroad were so meticulous and had such lovely local content, in their own language. I wanted to give that to people here and I wanted to elevate the Arabic language,” she said.
What makes Rawan Stationery different is its originality. It offers mainly Arabic stationery items, agendas, cards for every occasion and Rawan Stationery-designed wrapping paper, and has found a ready market.
As for upcoming projects, Rawan’s Stationery has plans to expand to a second branch soon.