In the Time of COVID-19: Bahrain’s Retail Sector

Image used for illustrative purposes only.
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As Bahrain’s retail market has grown steadily over the past decade to a value of BHD 2.2 billion in 2018, the island has been a lucrative market for the many small businesses and international chains that dot its landscape.

Today, between Kuwait’s Al Shaya Group reporting a 95% revenue plummet and BinDawood Holding’s Danube in Saudi Arabia reporting a 200% increase in online sales, we wonder, how, and what is the retail sector doing right now?

To answer that question for Bahrain, we’d have to first consider the closure of non-essential commercial businesses, in effect till tomorrow. Hypermarkets, supermarkets, cold stores, grocery stores, bakeries, etc. were excluded from the ban and have been open for business while enforcing social distancing and sanitation directives put forth by the government.

How much effort goes into ensuring safe shopping experiences when you’re one of the most preferred hypermarket chains on the island?

We spoke to the team at Lulu Hypermarket to find out.

1. What are the sanitation & social distancing measures in place at Lulu?
From the beginning, Lulu Hypermarket has put customer and staff safety first. As a ‘public space’, we implemented measures that went beyond the standard recommendations and which are in line with advice from the Ministry of Health. We were first to implement the wipe-down of every trolley with disinfectant when it returns to the trolley station after use and also just before the customer uses it.

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We have hand sanitizer dispensers at our entry and exit points in all the hypermarkets. There is also a special hand wash station (with soap and water) in the Ramli Mall hypermarket entrance area.

Regarding social distancing, the appropriate recommended distances are clearly marked on the hypermarket floors. In line with ministry regulations, the first hour from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. is priority service hour for elderly customers and pregnant ladies.

There are transparent barriers between cashiers and customers at check-out points to protect shoppers and staff from any health risk.

Finally, Lulu Hypermarket was the first hypermarket in the region to be ISO 22000-2005 certified which assures the highest standards of food quality, hygiene and taste. We have always put hygiene and quality foremost.

2. We heard you have special counters for medical professionals. Tell us more.
The special counter is our way of paying tribute to the brave medical professionals who are the frontline warriors in this COVID-19 war. As we all know they are currently in a period of stress and overwork and we felt we have the opportunity to ease things for them by creating a fast-track check-out counter in every Lulu hypermarket where medics can get priority service when they shop for their daily essentials.

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3. What are the work timings currently?
As an important part of the food security chain and all other essentials, all Lulu Hypermarkets across Bahrain are open from 8 a.m. till midnight daily.

4. Tell us about your online services and delivery.
We have an online shopping portal that was seeing a lot of momentum before this unusual situation and now is gaining even more popularity. We have seen an increase in online customers in the past weeks. Lulu, while also meeting government requirements, is going above and beyond to ensure a comfortable and safe shopping experience in these troubled times.

This goes to show that hypermarkets and food stores are definitely taking their role as essential service providers very seriously while shoppers, too, are recognizing their social responsibility by choosing to shop online when possible.

Stay safe, and happy shopping.

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