The Customer Comes First
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
THE Group’s unwavering drive for continuous improvement and portfolio expansion has resulted in offering the widest range of products in Jordan across its numerous stores, all emanating from a ‘customer comes first’ mentality.
Initiating as the Jordan Centre for Trade & Investment before its later rebranding to the current guise, the journey began back in 2002 upon the acquisition of its first franchise, British Home Stores (BHS); before then launching its shopping centre, Cozmo Centre, in an attempt to rejuvenate the country’s fragmented and flailing retail scene.
Since then, it’s been a case of mission accomplished with the Cozmo supermarket - housed in the Centre - especially taking off, alongside BHS and numerous fashion brands across the three floors.
Chief Executive Officer, Imad Bukhari picks up the story: “The Centre, as a result of the success of the two anchor brands, BHS and Cozmo supermarket, was expanded, to double the area in 2007, and introduced its book store, Readers, and leased the top floor to a large electronics store.
“In the same year, the Company added a new brand to its portfolio, the famous Hamleys toy shop. THE Group adopted an aggressive expansion plan and now owns 16 stores in Amman across all brands.”
Regional expansion has since occurred via acquisitions of Hamleys in the Levant, and both the toy store and BHS in Egypt back in 2014. All told, THE Group can now boast four stores in the latter country as well as a Cozmo supermarket in the Kurdistan.
“Then, in 2016, we acquired the British fashion franchise, M&CO, meaning that THE Group now employs in excess of 1,000 employees across our business units,” Bukhari continues. “THE Group is now comprised of three companies: the Jordan Centre for Trade & Investment which owns and manages Cozmo supermarket, BHS, M&CO and fashion and home franchises; The Jordan Centre for Trading in Toys Ltd which includes Hamleys Toy Shop; and Al Warraq Book Stores Company Ltd, which entails book shops under the trade name of Readers.
“All of them adhere to the Company’s vision which was created on the premise of offering high quality products with the best service, engaging with customers and responding to their wants.”
The customer comes first
And indeed, THE Group has delivered on its customer-centric promise and built a relationship with them based on trust and an unceasing commitment to bring newness and freshness to the region’s retail domain.
“From the onset, THE Group has been the forerunner in the retail scene in Jordan, has always been proactive to developments in the retail industry and customers’ needs and wants, and has maintained its position ahead of the competition,” Bukhari affirms. “Ours is the simple strategy of ‘The Customer Comes First’!”
An expansion of the Centre initially catered for such a vision in order to offer customers a more well-rounded choice of international products across its units, exposing them to new products and services on a regular basis. The launch of THE Group’s first convenience store, Simply Cozmo, further compounded this strive, while initiatives like its customer loyalty scheme has added further rewards for the consumer community.
“Apart from the redemption of the earned points at any of our stores, exclusive discount days and other privileges, THE Group teamed up with the leading hotels, restaurants, gyms and service providers in the country to offer the cardholders sizable discounts and privileges,” Bukhari explains. “Our supermarkets offer the widest range of products in the country and in addition to the mainstream products from local suppliers; we import premium products from all over the world under agreements of exclusivity in Jordan.
“For example, Cozmo supermarket was the first store to introduce organic and health food products into Jordan back in 2003. Since then and having created demand, the offering has been extensively expanded to also cover free from allergens food and organic fresh produce across a number of international brands.”
The same innovative and entrepreneurial approach has been applied to fashion, toy and book strands of the business too, often acting as pioneers and industry firsts in the region through the various market introductions.
Bukhari continues: “On the fashion side, the Company opened a new store at the Abdali Mall and recently added M&CO to our department stores; Hamleys Jordan is the leading toy store in the country and has become the destination for the latest and most exciting toys; and Readers’ books stores is renowned for its high level of service and is the preferred destination for books in Jordan.”
Catering for customer needs doesn’t just involve unveiling new products or new stores, however, but also includes to a great extent, the monitoring of and adaption to consumer trends; whether this revolves around the shopping experience, technology, lifestyle or dietary habits.
At present, digitalisation in particular is dominating the retail scene in response to such nuances, with THE Group taking this on board to try and reignite the sometimes dull shopping experience.
“Customers are now savvy, connected and demanding of a shopping experience that matches their lifestyle,” Bukhari elaborates. “In response to this changing environment, THE Group launched its supermarket ecommerce site, cozmo.jo, a few months ago, and is now in the design stage of Readers and Hamleys toy store’s sites. We have also introduced interactive touch screens at the supermarket, a pilot project to roll over the remaining stores, where customers can find product locations, see store plans, check and redeem loyalty points, order online to collect or have delivered to their homes or offices, as well as a number of other features.”
Cozmo supermarket will be the first in Jordan to introduce self-checkout points of sale, while in-store tablets will also become a reality in the coming months. On the consumer preference side, on-site tutorials in healthy cooking and healthy eating have been catered for via its Cozmo Kitchen section of the supermarkets.
And ensuring the smooth and attractive delivery of each and every customer-focused, value-added service is an enthused and highly skilled employee loyal to THE Group cause.
“THE Group continuously endeavours to attract, maintain and retain the highest calibre of staff, and is always seeking to develop its recruitment and selection practices to ensure the employment of competent staff members,” Bukhari states. “The main goal is always to be an equal opportunity employer, select a potential employee who can perform the job well, respond to THE Group style of management (cultural fit), and to get them as productive as possible, as quickly as possible.”
THE Group is committed to knowledge building, skills development, and performance enhancement within its human resource strategy, for the good of each individual as well as for the organisation as a whole. And to facilitate sustainability, localisation also takes precedence; proudly comprising a 100 percent Jordanian workforce to this end.
The leading contemporary retailer
That being said, while local is still the focus from an employment perspective, international is very much the buzzword when it comes to general expansion. Having earned regional brand recognition for quality and differentiation, and having also branched out into the Levant and Egypt, further ambitions are now in place footprint-wise.
“Political and security issues in the region have frustrated our growth plans but have not stopped us from increasing our presence into Egypt and Kurdistan,” Bukhari notes. “The Egyptian market in particular presents great potential in retail, attributed mainly to the high population density in the cities and the emerging mall culture.
“In addition to political and security stability, three pivotal factors will drive THE Group’s decision to enter new markets in the future: the market size, in terms of population and buying power; the legislative stability of taxation and import policies; and the market’s maturity stage.”
Market size in particular provides the opportunity for multiple stores, thus justifying investment into a new jurisdiction.
This isn’t a new conundrum for THE Group though, with the same investment proposals already being seen in Jordan in the form of store and Centre expansions and new brand unveilings; each one weighed up from a return-on-investment perspective to make sure that the business continues to grow sustainably in the long-term.
“In the coming years, Cozmo Centre will be adding around 70,000 square feet through expanding the existing building for more retail space and management offices,” Bukhari concludes. “We plan to add new brands and business units to our portfolio as well as opening new stores in Jordan and Egypt.
“And finally, by 2018, the stores’ digitalisation process will have been completed thus cementing our position as the experiential stores to visit. In three to five years’ time, we will be positioned as the leading contemporary retailer, not just in Jordan, but across the region.”