Sharjah: If the expiry date on products is not your primary concern and saving is, then you should head straight to Sharjah’s Jamal Abdul Nasser Street to get insane bargains on your groceries.
Offering crazy combo deals and massive discounts, several stores along Jamal Abdul Nasser Street, opposite Al Majaz Park, sell food products and other consumables that are closer to expiry dates, giving discount hunters great bargains.
And people are grabbing these offers with both hands.
“There were only a couple of stores earlier, but over the last couple of years this business has taken off as more people are becoming conscious buyers and Jamal Abdul Nasser [street] has become a hub for bargain stores selling products nearing expiry dates,” said Mohammad Anees, a storekeeper at one of the first discount stores that opened up almost six years ago.
Initially opened keeping an eye on low-income families, mainly those affected by conflicts in Syria and Palestine, the concept quickly found takers beyond its intended segment, with more than half a dozen stores now dealing only in short-validity items.
Packed with all types of edibles, branded as well as little known, with validity ranging from just a couple of days to a few weeks, the discount stores are not just popular with budget conscious buyers with limited means, but according to shop owners many of their patrons are well-to-do people.
“These are not just poor people who come here to buy essentials. We have customers from all nationalities and all backgrounds, some of them come in driving Range Rovers and BMWs and walk out with bags full,” said Ahmad Nasser, a partner at Al Hara Al Shamia Supermarket, one of the bigger stores on the lane, which is currently undergoing expansion as it copes with growing demand.
Nasser, who jointly owns three such stores, including one in Ajman, has been in this business for around a year and with growing demand he is looking to expand further.
“This is a service that is needed by a lot of people, particularly, now that the financial situation is not that great and everybody is trying to save whatever they can. We see that there is a demand and we are just trying to supply what people want in a better and bigger way, as a proper business concept,” added Nasser
Customers at these grocery stores can expect to buy an item for a third or even fourth of its original price, but the catch is that you will have to consume the purchase as quickly as you buy.
“People can expect to save up to 80 per cent or more on their groceries with us. We buy in bulk directly from distributors and we sell adding only small margins. Every day we have fresh supplies coming in and they fly off the shelf very quickly because our prices are unbelievably low. These are products that are for immediate consumption so even if the validity period is small people don’t mind,” said Mahfouz Safa, a manager at another discount store.
From cheese and dates, to yoghurt, biscuits and chocolates as well as frozen food, soft drinks and juices, the range of products is quite broad.
Mostly sold as combo offers, in packages of twos and threes, items like spaghetti, olive oil, mayonnaise, sauces etc. could be bought for as low as five, seven or nine dirhams.
“The prices keep changing, the rates mostly depend on the period of validity. Some items are available for as low as one or two dirhams,” said Maryam, a regular shopper.
Dairy products like yoghurt, cheese and cream are among the fastest selling items, but not everything that is on the shelf could be on discount.
“There is no doubt, most of the products here are heavily discounted. I know the validity is low but buying from here means good savings. However, if you are not a discerning buyer, you might end up buying items that you don’t need or might even buy something that is not actually discounted,” said Nadir Shah, pointing to a pack of cream that was regularly priced, but was cleverly placed with products that were on special offer.
Another regular customer said that he loves shopping at these stores, but advised people to check the validity dates carefully before buying.
“Most products that are on sale have short validity periods but sometimes you might even find expired products on the shelf, so if you are not careful you might end up buying something that is not fit for consumption,” said Ali Mustafa.
However, Nasser claims that no expired products remain on the shelf.
“Some of the other stores might be doing it, but we never sell any expired item, for us the sale is so fast that the products hardly last till they expire. If any product remains unsold till the expiry date, we dump it immediately and the municipal officials also inspect regularly so there is no question of selling invalid products,” said Nasser.
Whether you are keen on buying these short-on-validity products or not, the stores are worth a visit, if not for anything else, just to feed your curiosity.
How does it work
■ Short on validity – expiry dates of products range from a few days to a few weeks
■ Bulk buy – All products purchased in bulk, direct from distributors at a low price
■ Low margins – Goods sold at up to 80 per cent lower than the original price
■ Quick consumption – Most items sold are food products meant for immediate consumption