View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shopping is Super, Hyper and Going Ultra in the United Arab Emirates

Further to my recent articles on shopping malls and food prices in the UAE, here is a short explanation of some terms used in this region.

In many countries, the term ‘supermarket’ is used to describe a self-service shop with departments that offer a wide variety of food and household goods. The prefix ‘super’ (from the Latin meaning above, over and beyond) indicates that it refers to a shop that is bigger and therefore has a greater variety than a traditional grocery store.

In the UAE the word ‘supermarket’ is generally used for small shops, even the ‘corner store’ variety, that might normally qualify for the term with its different areas, but would hardly make the grade on the basis of the volume of its stock.

Perhaps the word supermarket is used widely in the UAE, because the term popularly used for the big supermarkets is 'hypermarket' ('hyper' from the Greek meaning ‘over, beyond, above measure’). The first hypermarket to appear in the Middle East was the French Carrefour (previously Continent), which was established in Dubai’s Deira City Centre in November 1995.

Now hypermarkets abound in the Emirates and the term refers to a superstore which combines a supermarket with a department store. This concept involves high volumes of goods, low profit margins and big retailing. The intention is that shoppers will find all that they need in the one facility—a one park shopping experience.

What’s next? Perhaps the ‘Ultramarket’, to describe the shopping experience that is extreme and far out?

Geoff Pound

Image: Small Basil Supermarket in Faseel, Fujairah and the ‘big box’ Lulu Hypermarket, downtown Fujairah.