M&S Dubai Mall
Marks & Spencer didn't stint on space at its new store at The Dubai Mall. And food is getting its due importance along with all that fashion and lifestyle merchandise. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: What’s common to Marks & Spencer and ADNOC? On the face of it, hardly anything… but check closer.

In the UAE, the UK retailer and the Abu Dhabi headquartered energy giant have ventured into online ordering and delivery. ADNOC is using 100 of its Oasis fuel-and-convenience store locations to deliver orders, which could even include hot beverages, right up to the doorstep within 30 minutes. The supermarket operator Spinneys also launched its online version, first in Dubai and then spreading out.

As for Marks & Spencer, it’s decidedly going big on grocery… delivery. “The M&S Food app saw a large increase in the number of orders from the end of March,” said Nick Batey, General Manager of M&S MENA. “We noticed customers buying bigger basket food during this time, in particular long-life groceries, frozen and bakery items.

“Currently, this service is running across Dubai only… but we’re always looking to further ways to get our products to more customers. And encourage shoppers to get in touch via the app so they can be updated once the delivery service is available in their area.”

Some of that spike obviously has got to do with the movement restrictions in place since late March. The grocery online category was the standout winner as consumers and retailers shifted their exposure onto digital platforms. And by the looks of it, they intend to stay put online even as brick-and-mortar retail opens up.

Just keep at it

“The last few months have pushed us to rethink our approach in a way that moves away from reliance on the traditional physical in-store experience,” said Batey. “We have adapted by introducing and expanding our network, including ways through which customers can access products without having to leave the house.

“Since March, we have introduced three new ways to shop… including launching our e-catalogue for clothing and home, and partnerships with el Grocer and Deliveroo for speedy food deliveries, as well as implementing WhatsApp ordering capabilities.”

But not forgetting the physical

Padding up the range of online services does not mean M&S is going easy on a physical presence. For proof, it’s got itself a new 33,000 square feet “boutique” store at The Dubai Mall. And not surprisingly, given how shopper tastes are evolving, food makes for a key part of the store mix.

The M&S store has set aside a whopping 3,000 square feet for the brand’s chilled food range.

“For those who don’t know much about Marks & Spencer food, there’s a huge range to try - from the Plant Kitchen range offering vegan options to British favourites such as sourdough crumpets and luxury desserts,” said Batey.

“We are also excited to be introducing a café to Dubai Mall for the first time.”

The last few months have pushed us to rethink our approach

- Nick Batey of Marks & Spencer Mena

Streaming back

But can such options thrive when COVID-19 fears stalk consumers?

“We’ve seen customers returning to stores over the past few weeks,” the official added. “Customers now have six ways to shop Marks & Spencer products, which is testament to ensuring the needs of our customers are met.”

Marks & Spencer Dubai
Pack it up with food... Marks & Spencer is betting on a strategy that expanding its chilled food range as well as a 3,000 square feet cafe will convince shoppers to make a strong return. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
Working on alliances
It was in May that Marks & Spencer struck a partnership with el Grocer and Deliveroo for grocery ordering and delivery in Dubai. The brand had launched a dedicated M&S Food app in January.

"We’d noticed customers asking for Marks & Spencer food to be delivered directly to their door, so we developed a dedicated app to support this," said Nick Batey of Marks & Spencer MENA. "We expanded the service to include a further 27 locations, including The Palm, Marina and Arabian Ranches taking the total up to 40."