Abu Dhabi residents expressed their concern about closure of grocery stores and small supermarkets in their neighbourhoods on Monday.
Many small grocery stores were preparing to close down for good by Monday night due to space and financial constraints to meet new requirements laid down by authorities.
Those closing down temporarily were not sure of the how much time it would take for renovation and reopening due to certain technical reasons.
Only a small number of among 1,300 stores in the city have already completed the renovation. All others will be closed from Tuesday as Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority did not reveal whether it would extend the December 31 deadline for renovation of stores.
“It will affect everyone’s life as we all depend on home delivery service provided by grocery stores for small items,” said Wahab Ali Shah, a Pakistani expatriate in Hamdan Street. “It is not practical to visit a supermarket to purchase a small item. We are looking for the alternative to be provided by the government,” Shah said.
Apart from the convenience of home delivery, another resident found the prices in grocery stores in his neighbourhood cheaper. “I used to compare the prices in between the two grocery stores and a prominent retail chain branch in my neighbourhood; the grocery stores were cheaper,” said Mohammad Ismail, an Indian networking administrator, living in sector ME 11 at Shabia Khalifa in Mussaffah.
“Now those two grocery stores are being closed and we have to spend more money for essentials,” Ismail explained.
Small grocery store owners who were preparing for permanent closure said they were afraid of penalties including fines as there was no news about extending the deadline. Others preparing for renovation said they were not sure about when to reopen the stores.
“We had given a contract for renovation of a 32 square metre store for Dh120,000 three months ago, but it delayed for want of a certificate related to site map of the building,” said Aramanganam Ashraf, an Indian partner of Al Nahlat Grocery off Airport Road. “We had already paid Dh40,000 advance but not sure when the works can be started,” he said.
Al Rahi supermarket on Electra Street will temporarily close down from Tuesday. A contractor told them it would take time to start the renovation works. “The contractor is unable to commit a timeframe as they are busy with the works of many other stores,” a partner said.
As the officials did not comment about the issue, no authentic information was available about the number of small stores that are being closed down permanently. However according to salesmen delivering goods to the stores, about 40 to 50 per cent of 1,300 grocery stores in the city and on the outskirts of the city may face closure.
Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) had asked the grocery stores in mid-2011 to complete refurbishing the shops as per the new standards before the December 31, 2012 deadline. The standards insists on the restriction on the amount of items to be kept on the shelves, uniforms for staff, store security system, till machines, cooler boxes, bicycles for delivery, clear display of prices, corner storage room, overhead storage cabinets, clear shop front and wider aisles etc. There are optional items for adding value, like ATMs, coffee counters and microwaves.