Abdulaziz Talal Al Tamimi knows how many people feel about grocery shopping. “Most supermarkets – including ours – are not as exciting as they need to be,” he declares. “Too often, shopping is a chore; people just want a quick store visit to get their family’s weekly food needs.
However, it can be so much more experiential – filled with sights, sounds and aromas – and made better by skilled staff introducing shoppers to new ideas, flavours and more.” This is why he believes that grocery stores are long overdue for reinvention.
As CEO of Tamimi Markets, a fast-growing supermarket chain that has been owned and operated by his family for more than 40 years, he is on a quest to make that happen. Abdulaziz believes that it must begin with fresh thinking.
“60% of Saudis are under the age of 30, so it is essential that our stores actively appeal to this segment of the population. Unfortunately, most supermarkets are rooted in functional formats and older management styles, which means that many changes in trends, tastes and patterns go under their radar,” he says.
“At Tamimi, we have a management team that thrives on innovation and is comprised of both international industry veterans and young people who are hungry to learn and bring a lot of passion, ideas and creativity to the table.”
From fresh thinking to fast action, the firm is embarking on a makeover of its branches. “We are changing the interior design and layouts of our stores, as well as the product mix to capture trends that appeal to the younger generation,” Abdulaziz says.
“Besides importing renowned name brands and exclusive items from the US, Europe and Asia, we are creating a Grab & Go solution that allows customers to buy freshly prepared hot foods and convenient meals to go. In addition, we are looking at setting up sushi stations, fresh juice counters and salad bars within our stores.”
Also relatively new is the Healthy Living section, where natural, organic, gluten-free and other ‘free-from’ products, as well as items catering to special dietary needs, are sold.
The firm has plans to expand, rebrand and turn it into a larger Health and Wellness area within the store. Just changing up the interiors wouldn’t be enough to attract new, young customers, which is why the business has come up with various creative concepts aimed at boosting Tamimi’s visibility and awareness among consumers.
These include Tamimi Express outlets, which, at 1,000 square metres, are smaller versions of the 3,000-square-metre regular markets, as well as Tamimi Minis – even smaller branches akin to convenience stores, that easily fit within trading complexes and residential compounds.
Then there are the food trucks, which Abdulaziz admits are “more event or marketing vehicles than a business”. He explains,
“We position them at major events to serve our customers at affordable prices while increasing our visibility and relevance. The reaction to them has been very positive and has led to many posts on platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. To be relevant to our younger customers, we need to be where they are and be a part of their fun. We often get hashtagged and tagged in photos.”
Perhaps it goes without saying, but a drive to appeal to a new generation of customers cannot succeed without digital transformation.
The supermarket sector is immensely satisfying because it’s a fascinating blend of many businesses in one.
Abdulaziz is aware of this, saying, “I do believe that online shopping is going to be a big part of the future. We currently offer 15,000 products online and have just started expanding our reach with Amazon as the first seller on the global retailer’s Saudi website.”
The firm started with its Click and Collect service in mid 2019, placing pick-up points in convenient locations in the Central Business District and private office complexes across Riyadh and Eastern Province. Customers may conveniently retrieve their online orders on their way home from work or whenever it suits them.
“The younger mobile generation doesn’t want to wait at home for hours on end for their orders to arrive, so they appreciate the convenience of the Click and Collect model. It’s also a more profitable and sustainable strategy than home delivery,” Abdulaziz says.
“I’ve read a recent study done in the UK which reveals that home delivery costs approximately 15% of the price of the goods ordered. For example, packing and delivery for £80 (€93.80) of groceries, would add up to a total of £12 (€14). For an industry where margins are low and customers are price-conscious, this is too high. Our services must fit around their lifestyles and budgets.”
Elsewhere in Tamimi’s operations, the digital transformation is going full speed ahead. “The invaluable thing about our store managers is that they have experience, intuition and understanding of the customers,” Abdulaziz says.
“We want to replicate and augment their human touch and knowledge with efficient algorithms. Artificial intelligence is being applied to restock our stores. The software tracks product sales and automatically sends picking orders to the warehouse for replenishment, all without human intervention. This frees up our store managers to focus on serving our customers.”
The invaluable thing about our store managers is that they have experience, intuition and understanding of our customers.
In addition, the firm is planning to optimise data from its loyalty program to better engage membership card holders. “We want to be able to offer individualised promotions to suit the shopping habits of each customer in each of our stores,” Abdulaziz reveals.
He has ambitious expansion plans for Tamimi Markets. The company was founded in eastern Saudi Arabia, before moving west to the capital of Riyadh and beyond, where it has grown to more than 54 stores.
Western Saudi Arabia is its next target, as well as physical and virtual growth outside the Kingdom. Earlier this year, it opened its first store in neighbouring Bahrain.
“The supermarket sector is immensely satisfying because it’s a fascinating blend of many businesses in one – retail, finance, logistics, and even manufacturing – and it moves at a fast pace,” says Abdulaziz.
“My role as CEO is as a custodian, taking care of Tamimi Markets and acutely listening to our customers, while preparing to pass this thriving company to the next generation of my family.”
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