INTERNATIONAL. Al Azizia Panda, the biggest supermarket hypermarket group in Saudi Arabia, is planning to open its first store in Dubai in May, the company said this week.
The store, which will be the first Panda outlet outside of Saudi Arabia, will be an AED50 million (US$13.6 million), 15,000 square metre hypermarket situated in Dubai’s Festival City, close to rival group Carrefour’s Deira City Centre store.
The move is part of an ambitious growth strategy from Panda’s owner, the Savola Group, which intends to open ten hypermarkets outside Saudi Arabia by 2010 in a bid to compete with rival hypermarket groups such as Carrefour and Geant.
“Everybody knows Dubai is still a growing market and we think we can have stores here,” Jean-Marie Teyssedre, Chief Operating Officer, Panda, said. “We took the decision to come here because it’s a competitive market and we have an interesting concept.
“At the moment we have no Panda stores in any other GCC countries outside Saudi Arabia. We will start with the UAE. We have to go step by step and Dubai is our first step.”
Teyssedre added that Panda’s experience of the Saudi Arabian market places it in a strong position to compete with its rivals in other GCC countries. Part of the strategy for the international Hyper Panda stores will be to cater for local markets, and to this end the concept behind the Dubai store will differ slightly from Panda’s other outlets, mainly by having more space for electronic goods.
“It’s an upgrade from our Saudi concept to fit with the Dubai market, and also developed to fit with Festival City mall,” Teyssedre said. “Dubai will be a bit different from our stores in Saudi Arabia because the market is different. Each store has to be adapted to its own customers. It is clear that electronics is all important with tourists in Dubai.”
Panda, which currently has 60 stores in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Dharan, Jubail, Rastanura, Mecca and Qassim in Saudi Arabia, also plans to consolidate its leading position in its home country by opening a further 60 Saudi Arabian stores by 2010.