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Online shopping has become a norm – it is no more a rage or a fad. It is now embedded in our functional fabric. We have become comfortable ordering goods and services, paying bills, purchasing online tickets or refilling our Salik account from the comfort of our living room. The list of our places where our credit card information is swiped virtually is continuously expanding. But there is one thing that I don’t do as of yet – I don’t order my groceries online. Heck, I don’t even choose to have them home delivered from the small mart around the corner.

While my predicament begins with the lack of knowing of a suitable online grocer, it extends into a trust issue – I always suspect that I will receive soon-to-expire milk or over ripe vegetables. I recently heard of an online grocer that promises to deliver groceries at your doorstep within your requested timeslot. However, the primary question is if there is a market for online grocers in the UAE?

The large format hypermarkets in the UAE have their online web portals but these are primarily geared to provide high margin electronics and other goods. Can these hypermarkets also provide groceries like niche online grocers? They certainly have the reach, infrastructure and hold sufficient sway over suppliers. However day-to-day grocery items are low margin necessary evils that hypermarkets stock to attract footfall for their high-margin electronics. Possibly. In the US, Safeway and Walmart are testing grocery deliveries while in the UK, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose, have committed to doubling space devoted to internet distribution.

Coming back to the UAE, I imagine there is a small niche market targeting educated white collar employees who don’t mind paying an annual fee or delivery fees for a minimum order quantity. With UAE’s inexpensive labor and low gas prices, an online grocer can transfer savings to customers as well offer numerous conveniences – price comparisons and an unlimited shelf space made possible by the nature of the internet.

How soon do you think it will be before you order your next set of groceries online? Or are you the kind that will still prefer checking into you neighborhood supermarket- or brave the crowds and visit the local hypermarkets?

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