Huge opportunities in Saudi supermarket business: Tamimi Group
October 7, 2011
ALKHOBAR: The owners of Tamimi supermarket on Alkhobar’s Corniche on Thursday marked the opening of the expanded and renovated grocery store that has defined the company over the last four decades.
Since its launch in 1979 it has become a key landmark in the Eastern Province.
The supermarket revolutionized the grocery business. Before that Saudi Arabia had the ubiquitous baqalas. In a sense the opening of Tamimi’s Alkhobar supermarket symbolized the beginning of modern commerce in Saudi Arabia.
Hundreds of customers attended the grand opening of the milestone store.
Soon after the launch, pictures were uploaded to Facebook and enthusiasts tweeted about it. Hundreds of expatriates in the US, Europe and Asia who resided in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and 1990s commented on these photos recalling their memories of the store and its many items.
“How does that area look like now?” wrote Peter Isaak, an American who made Alkhobar his home in 1982, while commenting on the launch photo.
“I will never forget the many trips we would make to Tamimi supermarket to get stuff that we thought we would never get in Saudi Arabia.”
“This particular store is our flagship … This one led to the success of the Tamimi Group of Companies. We became a household name after this store,” said Group President Tariq A. Tamimi, one of the sons of Ali Tamimi, the group founder.
“We have a special attachment with this store, and this is the reason why we have invested so much in it.”
He says competition has not driven the investment.
“We have gone in for an aggressive strategy because this is still an untapped market,” he added.
“Saudi Arabia is growing, and we think there are huge opportunities in the supermarket business. The population is growing; they have become quality conscious and brand conscious. Our priority is to provide them the best.”
Tamimi is known for quality products, but it has lost business to hypermarkets that provide a range of products at lower prices.
“We are catering to a different segment altogether. We have organic food, and that comes at a high cost. Those who are health-conscious and are aware of what organic food is all about understand what we are talking about,” said Tamimi.
“Our major focus now is the growing Saudi population; they form the bulk of our clientele.”
To all those who have been Tamimi’s loyal customers for years, the president’s message is: “Come see for yourself what we have done for you. You will love shopping with us. We have got everything that you are looking for, and quality is our benchmark.”
The new supermarket’s ultimate selling point is its prime location and the fact that it is open 24/7. “We have taken into account the feedback from our regular customers and factored in their needs,” said Mohsen S. Husain, food division general manager.
“We are now in the process of launching new stores in other places.”
Tamimi supermarket was the only building in the area in 1979.
“I have been with this group for 35 years,” said Mohammed Ilyas Khan, who is now vice president and managing director of Tamimi Global Co. Ltd.
“Across the road everything was part of the sea,” he says pointing to the glitzy Alkhobar Corniche area that has now become the location for a number of coffeehouses, top brands and fast-food outlets.
“Most of this area was reclaimed from the sea,” he said.
According to Khan, Tamimi Alkhobar is very dear to the owners.
“I remember Ustaz Ali Tamimi spending much of his time at this store. He took personal interest in this outlet and would listen to his customers patiently to ensure that they got what they wanted. A whole generation of Saudis and expatriates in Saudi Arabia grew up buying their daily products from in here. It is fitting that this superstore has been redone in such a fabulous way; it is the company’s tribute and commitment to its customers.”
“Such is our commitment to this store that we might close everything but not this one,” quipped Fawaz T. Tamimi, head of the group’s business development division.
“This is our life. This is our legacy.”