Yesterday I was hunting around town for a full-automatic espresso machine (and that’s a whole story by itself). So after checking out the Lavazza shop (who sell Saeco machines) I decided to try my luck and see if Safeway (7th Circle branch) or Cozmo sell such machines (they don’t by the way).
Why even consider Safeway? This would have been a good question just year ago.
I once swore I would never set foot in a Safeway store in Jordan again in my life. I honestly though that the company will go out of business soon. I thought that the Kuwaiti investors who bought the chain would soon have to close it.
That was around the time when the high-end supermarket Cozmo opened near Safeway’s 7th Circle branch. Cozmo’s selection, presentation and advertising and, most importantly, their overall shopping experience was miles ahead of Safeway’s outdated brand of retail. While Cozmo was busy becoming the new ‘Ahlia Abella’ (i.e. the supermark of choice for well-to-do Ammanis), Safeway’s image was being driven into the ground. It was depressing.
So what made me go there today. Well, it’s just one word: the renovation!
It took a long time to come together and, until a few months ago, Safeway still had problems with their cashier and customer service staff (slow, unresponsive, etc). But, I am now convinced that our next shopping trip should give Safeway a chance: wide aisles, a huge selection, good lighting, a sushi bar (!) and even a full fledged restaurant. The transformation of Safeway is complete. At least from the looks of it, as I didn’t really test the staff today /
Normally, one would not visit both Safeway and Cozmo in the space of 30 minutes. But today I did. Remember I was hunting for an item, not doing the weekly shopping. Something struck me. Upon walking into Cozmo, it actually felt outdated! The lighting was decidedly dull. Compared to Safeway’s new, clear, multicolored signage and presentation, Cozmo had elements of tackiness creeping in (like the illustrated walls near the elevator).
Now, I have to say that Safeway was pretty empty, compared to the crowded cash registers at Cozmo. It is clear who is doing better business. But if Safeway decide to follow the renovation with proper marketing, good prices and consistency of service, I am sure they will win over part of the market again.
They are even trying a bit harder with their Safeway Express small-store concept. Their new Express store, which is part of the newly opened JomoGas/McDonalds/Bakery complex on airport road, isn’t half bad.
In any case, all Jordanian supermarkets, large and small, must be really nervous right now. The internationals are coming to town. The Spinneys sign on Mecca Mall was just a false alarm (the deal fell through apparently over the inclusion of a liqueur store in Spinneys. After all, how can you sell whiskey in MECCA Mall??).
But Carrefour is coming. These people don’t joke around. If you’ve been to a Carrefour you’ll know what I mean. It’s HUGE. And knowing how Jordanians always like to go to the ‘new thing in town’, the incumbent supermarket chains better watch out. HELLO C-Town?
One thing I’d hope we’ll see come out of this is a drop in prices. It is absolutely ridiculous that Amman is most expensive city (measured by level of income) in the WHOLE ARAB WORLD. While the current players in the retail space are doing well (seems that the Middle Class is not entirely dead, eh? ), prices need to drop to expand the market of Jordanian shoppers. Let’s hope that competition does translate into better prices for all of us.
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