With the opening of a major new branch in Amman’s Taj Mall, Cozmo is forging ahead with an expansion plan that aims to cement its position as one of Jordan’s leading supermarket chains.
By Jane Hosking
Photography by Alaa’ al-Sukhny
When Cozmo first began business in Jordan back in 2003, there were only a few players in a largely underdeveloped market, allowing the popular supermarket chain to bring something new to the table in terms of products and service.
By tapping into the growing consumer demand, Cozmo expanded from one large store at the Seventh Circle to six, after opening five smaller ‘Simply Cozmo’ neighborhood convenience stores in 2010. Last month, this number grew to seven, with the opening of a large Cozmo store in Taj Mall that replaced a branch of Spinneys, a regional supermarket chain owned by Dubai’s Abraaj Group.
“Right from the beginning we had ambition and we never planned to stop at just one Cozmo branch,” explained Imad Bukhari, chief executive officer of THE Group, the umbrella company which owns the Cozmo brand, as well as the BHS and Hamleys franchises.
An Ambitious Expansion Plan
It appears as though these initial plans of expansion are now in full swing. Next year in spring, the Jordanian company will open another large store in Abdali Mall and is also increasingly looking to expand in the region. Already THE Group opened its first Cozmo store in Kurdistan last year.
“That’s the beginning of an ambitious expansion plan in that part of the world,” said Bukhari, adding that while Kurdistan is the focus for now, they will look further afield in the future. “As soon as we are ready, we will start moving forward with these plans. We already have the brand registered across the Arab world,” he said.
According to Bukhari, Cozmo’s customer base in Jordan has more than quadrupled over the last 10 years, product turnover has increased around four to five times, and the Cozmo Center at Seventh Circle, including the BHS store, has an average daily footfall of around 4,500 people.
But how did Cozmo reach this level of success in the first place? “When we began, the market environment was extremely fragmented, shopping trends were purely functional, and the market was very promotional. So anybody would shop anywhere,” explained Bukhari. “We could see there was an opportunity for experiential shopping to be introduced into Jordan.”
Bukhari said providing top notch customer service has been at the heart of Cozmo’s business strategy since its inception. He added that his chain’s 700-strong workforce greatly outnumbers that of its competitors. “We have more staff to serve the customers and make sure that the products are available all the time,” he said.
Breaking into the market and maintaining a strong foothold has required Cozmo to respond quickly to changing customer demands and tastes. “In the past, customers were held captive to a small number of industry players, but they can now see beyond that, and what they want is quality,” said Bukhari, adding that with so many shopping options emerging, consumers have become more demanding over the years.
This has meant catering to a wide array of demands when it comes to products. “We have a huge variety of products in our supermarkets,” said Bukhari, explaining that this includes both imported high-end products as well as the more mainstream products. According to Bukhari, their customers have increasingly developed a taste for products with an added value. As a result, Cozmo has gone out of its way to stock health and organic items.
“It’s never been our attitude to push products on our customers, feeding them whatever we want,” Bukhari said, adding that Cozmo has a department that looks for new products continuously, which takes on board suggestions from customers. In his role as the CEO, Bukhari also makes sure he is involved in this process as well. “I frequently travel with the team to exhibitions all over the world in search of new products,” he said.
To bring in high quality products from around the world, Cozmo has developed a number of partnerships with popular global brands. This includes a recent agreement with British multinational supermarket chain Tesco. These partnerships, Bukhari explained, are more effective for Cozmo than creating their own brand. “Many other supermarkets have their own brand label, but our customers are brand-driven consumers, so it wouldn’t make sense to put the Cozmo name on a tuna can or on a cereal box,” he said, adding that they prefer to partner with strong brands they know they can trust.
Competition is Good
While Cozmo has no doubt achieved huge success in the Jordanian market, the competition is never far from Bukhari’s mind. “We have our own goals, ideas and ambitions, so we tend to follow our own path, but we always keep an eye on the competition as well,” he said. Bukhari credits Carrefour’s entrance into Jordan as helping to structure the market, but he knows that Cozmo can’t afford to be complacent. “This is a dynamic business where you can’t just sit back and say: ‘I’m doing well’,” he said. “You have to continuously improve what you’re offering.”
There’s no official word as to why Spinneys closed its branch at Taj Mall. But some customers found its maze-like layout confusing, and there were clearly access issues related to its location in a busy shopping mall that only has underground parking. Even so, Bukhari is confident that the new Cozmo store will be a success. “There are a number of challenges related to operating a supermarket inside a mall. Fortunately we have already addressed the bigger logistical challenges, in order to make it easier for our customers to navigate their shopping experience.” This has included redesigning the entire layout of the store and a free valet service. “We would not have gone into it unless it was researched and studied,” said Bukhari.
As Cozmo moves ahead with its expansion plans, Bukhari is aware that they must continue to adapt to the changing trends in the market. He believes that as people’s lives become faster and busier they are increasingly looking for a fast shopping experience. “I think customers are starting to prefer smaller stores, closer to where they work or live. This has been the trend internationally and I believe that we can see it taking off here as well,” he said, explaining that supermarkets, compact markets, and even neighborhood stores are winning out over the much larger hypermarkets. But Cozmo, with its ‘Simply Cozmo’ stores is already ready for this change and appears prepared to take on any future challenge that comes their way.