Recent years have seen Jordan’s retail sector grow in both sophistication and diversity, with the arrival of global-quality shopping malls and a range of international brands. The shift from traditional retail outlets to more modern ones is also under way, along with the beginning of destination shopping, with larger out-of-centre stores. The amount of modern retail space is set to grow further, too, with the arrival of a new mall in the Abdali Boulevard development. Existing malls are also heightening competition for footfalls and outlets with a wave of promotions.
Much depends on the state of consumer confidence, and how well each retailer does in attracting and retaining a share of both the higher-spending section of the Jordanian population and the population at large. The expansion of purchasing power also depends on solid economic growth. Meanwhile, at the middle- and lower-income end many Jordanians continue to look to local stores and “one-door shops” for many of their daily needs.
Nonetheless, there is a great deal of confidence that Jordan will follow the patterns seen in other emerging markets, with the current state of play holding great opportunities for future investment in modern retail, given low levels of gross leasable area (GLA) per capita and the freshness of the market. “As a retailer,” Omar U Salfiti, CEO of TAJ lifestyle centre in Amman, told OBG, “there is a lot of room. Pretty much anything you have could potentially be the first time it’s been brought to market here.”
Traditionally most Jordanians have shopped in outdoor markets or family-owned, mixed-retail shops and other street-facing outlets, with that still the pattern for most. Indeed, according to HSBC, Jordan’s top five organised retail brands account for only 5% of the market, the rest going to more traditional stores. Income levels in the country have also been generally low, although they have risen from about $1793 in 1980 to $1763 in 2000. $2325 in 2005, $3797 in 2008 and $5214 in 2013.
The per capita figures mask major geographical disparities, with many surveys suggesting that average monthly incomes in the capital may be as much as twice the national average. As a result, international retailers tend to focus almost exclusively on Amman. As Imad Bukhari, CEO of The Group, told OBG, “At the moment Amman is still the only true retail hub in Jordan, but as satellite cities continue to reap the benefits of growth, we expect to see the segment begin to spread outside of Amman.”
The Jordanian middle class has also grown, although recent years have seen it – and income distribution – largely stabilise. World Bank data show that the top 10% income group has consistently been responsible for about 30% of the country’s wealth over the past five years, while the top 20% has been responsible for around 45%. These higher-income groups have been the first to embrace the newer forms of retail, although as many retailers point out, prices in modern malls may in fact sometimes be lower than in more traditional outlets.
“The Jordanian market is a very mixed one,” Fateh Haddad, senior marketing officer with electrical and electronics chain Smart Buy in Jordan, told OBG. “You can’t say you are just addressing the wealthy. Whoever has an electricity socket is our customer. We are also cheaper than the one-door shops and can carry more items and more models.”
Price is thus the main determinant, as ever, with competition fierce between the modern and traditional stores. This makes promotions a continuous process, with stores often decked out with discount offers and major sales campaign literature. These focus particularly around monthly and weekly pay days, with activity noticeably trailing off mid-month. Campaigns run throughout the year, too, with stores sometimes offering major discounts well outside traditional sales seasons. Many Jordanians do not have major savings to invest in new products, with the advertising sector necessarily focusing on a short buying period. Instalment purchase systems are also very popular for big-ticket items, as well as loyalty cards and co-branded credit cards.
With pricing such a key factor, however, there is also the danger of low-price, low-quality products skewing the market. This is a particular concern with electrical and electronic products, with the prevalence of equipment breakdowns potentially putting consumers off further purchases. Consumers are becoming more conscious and sophisticated, however, when it comes to such deals, with some retail representatives predicting to OBG that the next evolution will be towards better-quality – and in the long term more cost-effective – products. Salim Karadsheh, CEO of Nuqul Group echoed this sentiment. “As Jordan continues to get wealthier, we are noticing a shift in consumers who demand the highest quality from brands,” he told OBG.
As price wars affect margins, organised retailers also face the challenge of competing against the grey economy. Many traditional stores are largely outside the tax system, allowing them to lower costs.
Retailers of all kinds are impacted by high costs when it comes to power, with electricity a major expense in a country with nearly none of its own energy resources. Indeed, while power has long been an issue it has recently increased in importance, as electricity prices have risen, in keeping with an IMF programme aimed at eliminating energy subsidies (see Energy chapter). This has pushed some larger retailers to consider their own power sources, such as rooftop solar panels.
Labour costs are generally low by Western standards, while the local workforce has a reputation for being well educated and eager to learn. Global retail chains have their own philosophies, of course, with an ability to adapt these to local culture while maintaining an international brand image. This also applies to their products. “We are a Scandinavian firm,” said Emile Shaar, project leader for IKEA in Amman, “but not everything is Scandinavian style. What we sell are items that are not ‘Jordanian style’ or ‘Chinese style’, but items that can be tailored to local needs anywhere. An average Jordanian family is six people, while in Scandinavia a household might be just two people. They all need a sofa though, it’s just that here they need a bigger one.”
Larger Chain Outlets
The oldest established supermarket chain with an international franchise is Safeway, founded in 1987. It was purchased by the Masri family in 1991, and then Kuwait’s the Sultan Centre in 2003. The chain has six full and eight express stores, as well as two wholesale centres.
Also in 2003 Amman-headquartered The Group was established, setting up a retail chain called Cozmo. The Group also moved into a series of franchises, being behind British Home Stores in Jordan, along with Hamley’s toy stores. In addition, it established a bookstore, Readers. With the exception of Hamley’s these are all located in The Group’s Cozmo Centre shopping mall in Amman, while Readers is also in the TAJ lifestyle centre. Cozmo supermarkets, meanwhile, have also expanded out of the mall, with six other branches spread around the capital area.
However, in 2007 the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment underwent a shake-up with the opening of the first Carrefour hypermarket. Carrefour France operates in Jordan in a joint venture with Majid Al Futtaim, a Dubai-headquartered group that is one of the region’s main retail players. There are two Carrefour hypermarkets in Amman, both located in shopping centres – at Galleria and City Mall. Carrefour Jordan also has eight supermarkets, all also in the capital. In 2014 the store opened a third hypermarket of 6000 sq metres in Irbid, making a total of 11 branches countrywide.
A fourth main player in FMCG in the modern sector is Spinney’s, which opened its first branch in Jordan in 2011, at the TAJ. Spinney’s has a presence throughout the Middle East, with its first store, Arthur Spinney’s, having been set up in Alexandria in 1924.
March Of The Malls
The country has a number of large malls, the main ones being City, Cozmo, Mecca, Baraka, Galleria and TAJ, all in Amman, although there are others elsewhere as well, such as Sameh, Irbid, Arabella and City Centre in Irbid. The capital’s malls are congregated in the higher-income areas of West Amman, like Abdoun, Sweifiyah and Tlaa Al Aall. The first of these was established in 2007 and is owned by Al Khayr. City Mall covers 160,000 sq metres, with 55,000 sq metres of GLA. The four-level mall includes Jordan’s largest multi-level car park.
Cozmo Centre, meanwhile, started out in 2003, housing The Group’s outlets, and is in that sense a different kind of mall, leveraging synergies between its retail outlets. Mecca Mall opened in 2003 and was then the largest shopping centre in the country. It later expanded to a total area of 195,000 sq metres. The mall is owned by the Kurdi Group, which also opened the Abdoun Mall in 2001, the country’s first luxury shopping centre, covering 25,000 sq metres.
Al Baraka Mall opened in 2008, aiming to establish itself as a middle- to high-end fashion centre. It covers 40,000 sq metres, with 18,000 sq metres of GLA. Another small-sized mall is the Zara Centre, a retail and leisure centre adjoining the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Zara Exhibition and Conference Centre. Zara Centre has some 11,500 sq metres of GLA and Jordan’s first five-screen multiplex cinema. Indeed, cinemas are now a feature of many malls, with movie-going still a popular activity locally.
Galleria is the latest mall to open its doors, starting out in 2013. It has 106,000 sq metres of total space, with 55,000 sq metres of retail GLA. It also includes office space and room for 1200 cars.
The TAJ lifestyle centre opened in December 2011 and has some 150,000 sq metres of indoor and outdoor space, housing 190 different outlets. The TAJ appears to have taken off in recent times, with management telling OBG that footfalls in its half-year for 2014 had been around 45% up on the previous year.
All of these shopping centres will have to compete in the years ahead with the now-launching $423m Abdali Boulevard development, a mixed-use project set to include about 70,000 sq metres of retail space that will be both mall and street-facing. This project is being developed as a public-private partnership between the National Resources and Development Corporation and Horizon International for Development, which runs projects owned by Lebanon’s Sheikh Bahaa Rafiq Al Hariri. The Boulevard is the first phase of a $1.5bn project and was given an official opening on June 12, 2014.
Cozmo is taking a large supermarket, British Home Stores and Hamley’s to Abdali Boulevard, which will likely be a major challenge to other retail outlets focusing on the high end. A further new mall, the $150m Crystal International, had been planned for completion in the fourth quarter of 2012, but appears to be on hold for now. Another recent development in Amman has been the arrival of the first major destination store, IKEA, which opened a JD55m ($77.67m) outlet close to the airport in March 2014. The store is located on good transport routes, in an area of the city that is also likely to expand.
Questions Of Saturation
As the FMCG and mall segments show, the growth of modern retail in Jordan traces much of its strength to two sources: international, mainly Western, brands, and GCC and other Middle Eastern investment. Jordanian retailers often look to the GCC for comparison. GLA per capita in Jordan is, of course, much lower than in most of the GCC, yet insiders point to the dangers of drawing the wrong conclusions. “If you look at the GLA per capita, we are far behind Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. But if you look at GLA in comparison to GDP, you get a far more accurate reflection of the market,” TAJ lifestyle centre’s Salfiti told OBG.
Watching The Middle
At Kearney’s 2014 Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) ranked Jordan 22nd in its assessment of the attractiveness for new investment of 30 developing markets worldwide, two places down on 2013. Many retailers told OBG they would be consolidating their positions over the next few years, rather than undertaking major expansion plans, with Abdali probably the last new development for a while. The GRDI also noted, however, that annual retail sales since 2011 had been strong – up 7.8% overall. Grocery sales had risen 5% in the 2011-13 period, too, with the number of international chains operating in the country rising steadily.
Many of these new chains have come into the food and beverage section, with restaurants and cafes widely seen as profitable enterprises. The US brand Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse entered in 2013, while most globally established café and restaurant chains are already in town.
This market segment also connects with the entertainment side of retail, as malls establish themselves as places not only for shopping, but also for socialising and amusement – leveraging the popularity of cinema complexes attached to malls, too. The family is of enormous importance in Jordan, with the mall able to offer multi-generational activities in a clean – and air-conditioned – environment. These are important factors in a country that experiences averages of 30-33°C in the summer months, and the other extreme of occasional snow in the winter. These factors indicate that modern retail is growing and likely to continue to grow, if at a slower rate than in other, richer and larger markets.
This is not always the case though, as in one particular area Jordanian retail is something of a regional leader. In e-commerce the kingdom’s advantage in educated human capital has stood it in good stead, with Jordanians behind some of the region’s most successful ventures in online shopping, a market likely to be worth more than $2bn by 2016, according to Euromonitor International.
Some of the more successful ventures playing in the Jordanian market are MarkaVIP, which offers short time-limit sales on luxury goods to subscribers. The firm has about 1.5m members based in Jordan, Lebanon and the GCC. Another success story is souq.com, founded by Jordan’s Sami Toukan. This has a customer base of around 3.5m and was the recipient of an undisclosed 2013 investment by Tiger Global and Nasper Limited, US and South African hedge funds. Souq.com has also invested $2.5m in Run2Sport, the region’s first online sports retailer.
There are some segments of the retail market that have leapt ahead, even while others have made less rapid progress. Young Jordanians may well skip some of the typical stages in market development by going straight to e-commerce, especially as Jordan continues to invest in infrastructure. Yet, for the vast majority of Jordanians, retail is likely to continue to mean traditional souks and street stores. Knowledge of the local market and customers’ needs is an invaluable resource, with the next stage being that of drawing hyperlocal retailers to modern practices. Boosting mall footfall will depend mainly on economic growth and consumer confidence.