A Supermarket is a departmentalized retail store that offers a wide variety of products. Generally, supermarkets are self-service shops where consumers can buy groceries, other foods, beverages, and household goods.
The journey of the supermarket industry in Bangladesh has passed fairly a long way. Supermarkets are getting more popular among the people of the country, basically, in the urban areas. Supermarkets have made retail trading easier as people can find their everyday commodities in one place. People are leaning towards supermarkets to keep pace with their busy lives.
In this article, we have highlighted some of the top supermarket chains in Bangladesh. First, let’s take a brief look at this part of the retail sector.
The Journey of Supermarkets in Bangladesh
The existence of supermarkets can be found here right after the independence of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Army has been operating superstore chains — Canteen Stores Department (CSD) from the very beginning in the Cantonments. But the journey mainly began in 2001, when Agora launched its first superstore outlet. Then it was followed by Meena Bazar in quick succession. A couple of years later Shwapno came to the market. These three are still the major players in this industry.
In the beginning, affluent and upper-middle-class people were the prime targets of these supermarkets. Also, their business grounds were mostly the major cities like Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, etc. Gradually, the acceptance of supermarkets has increased among the consumers. As people are getting used to these superstores, the industry has spread to all classes of customers. According to Bangladesh Supermarkets Owners’ Association (BSOA), nearly 40 supermarket companies currently operate more than 250 superstores, most of which are located in cities and urban areas. Five years back, the number of these outlets was half that. Thus, supermarkets have steadily taken a firm hold in the country’s retail sector.
Challenges of Supermarket Industry in Bangladesh
Though the size of the retail industry of Bangladesh is nearly US $16 billion, still supermarkets hold only a 1.6% share of it. Tradition grocery and department stores are the main players of the retail market. Also, the general stores are available in every neighborhood of our country that provide daily necessities to the consumers. Approachable position, affordable pricing, and credit facility from retailers mainly lead customers towards traditional markets.
To stay ahead of the competition, value-added tax (VAT) is a big barrier for supermarkets. Other retail stores don’t charge any VAT on sales, rather pay on the package VAT system annually, based on shops’ locations and sizes. But 5% VAT is applicable on sales of the supermarkets. This extra cost largely prevents the customers from buying from supermarkets, according to the owners. Again, they have to pay 65% tax on their imported equipment. There is also a specific tax (approximately 9%) on their store rent.
There remains a negative trend among the customers to buy perishable items like meat and fish from supermarkets. Sometimes, there arise questions about the quality of different products of these stores. A disorganized distribution system is another biggest challenge for the expansion of this industry.
Despite the challenges, changes in socio-economic structure and higher per capita income are having a positive impact on the supermarket industry. Consumer awareness also drives the growth of this sector to a large extent. Supermarkets are also seen to be vibrant to provide quality products to customers. There are membership facilities in almost all the superstores. Members receive certain discounts on their total purchases.
In 2019, organized grocery retail sales were about Tk 2,300 crore, which was 19 percent higher than the previous year. With rapid urbanization, the supermarket industry is expected to grow larger throughout the country.
Top Supermarkets in Bangladesh:
Shwapno (dream) is currently the big player in the supermarket industry in Bangladesh with the largest number of superstore outlets. It was founded by ACI Group in 2008 and operated under their subsidiary ACI Logistics Limited. This retail chain has come to market with the motto “One Shwapno for All” which means making the superstore culture accessible to all people countrywide. From the beginning, it has been working with its “Seed to Shelf” vision of connecting farmers directly with consumers. According to the operators, 65% of Shwapno’s fresh produce is procured directly from the producers. Starting from food items and daily household needs, Shwapno offers clothing, home decor, electronics, and many other products. These include groceries from private brands as well as their in-house fashion label Shwapno Life products. Shwapno has more than 120 outlets, of which 62 are its own and the others are franchises. Currently, Shwapno serves more than 35,000 customers every day.
Rahimafrooz Superstores Limited, a subsidiary of Rahimafrooz Group, pioneered the supermarket business in Bangladesh by launching Agora retail chain. Agora started its journey with the first superstore in Dhaka city in 2001. In 2009, they partnered with the Swedish firm Brummer & Partners for better services and growth. Currently, Agora limited is a joint venture of Rahimafrooz group and Brummer & Partners. Agora focuses primarily on food products ranging from a wide variety of fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, bakery, dairy, and other groceries. According to the operators, it uses 50 thousand rural farmers and traders to source products. Agora also has an extensive range of household items, electronics, personal care, fashion, and other supplies. At present, it operates 17 superstores, of which 14 are in the capital — Dhaka, 1 in Chittagong, and 2 in Sylhet. Agora is planning to expand its outlets to key locations in the country’s major cities.
Meena Bazar is one of the earliest and a very well-known superstore chain in Bangladesh. Gemcon Group founded this retail chain in 2002, as a concern of Gemcon Food & Agricultural Products Ltd. (GFAPL). Since the induction, they hold a remarkable position in the industry and have international approaches. Meena Bazar doesn’t use any middlemen or third parties to supply itself, according to the operators. Almost all of their products directly come from manufacturers and entrepreneurs. Meena Bazar carries a broad range of organic and fresh products that are preferred by customers. Also, they offer a vast array of groceries and household products. Meena Bazar has more than 1 lac Club Cardmembers who do their daily shopping from there. To ensure easier and convenience retailing, they have a “Call and Order” service for the customers. Currently, Meena Bazar has 17 superstores, of which 16 are in Dhaka and 1 in Chittagong. In addition to the brick-and-mortar outlets, they operate the e-commerce platform — MeenaClick. This e-grocery platform also offers a diverse range of products.
Nandan Mega Shop
Another earliest player in the country’s supermarket industry is Nandan Mega Shop. Though it was considered a key competitor once, now has a limited number of outlets that are located in Dhaka. All These outlets carry a large variety of groceries and other household items. Nandan has started its journey to make shopping a form of entertainment for the customers. They also provide membership cards to customers. Cardholders get 5% and 3% commission respectively in case of buying goods worth Tk 5,000 and Tk 3,000 per month. The commission isn’t directly given to the customers. Products have to be purchased through it. There are also various discount offers for account holders of certain banks.
Unimart, a sister concern of United Group, was established in 2013. This retail chain has only 2 superstores located in Dhanmondi and Gulshan in Dhaka. But it is more likely a hypermarket with a huge floor space of 40,000 sq. feet. Thus, Unimart outlets are considered to be the largest superstores under a single roof. Its wide-open space can give an enjoyable shopping experience to the customers. Unimart offers a broad variety of items ranging from clothing to bags & shoes, and from electronics to fish & coffee. Also, they have a vast array of imported products which are best in quality. Recently, Unimart has launched their e-commerce platform — unimart.online that carries a large portion of their whole product portfolio. Partnering with PaperFly, a leading delivery network, they aim to provide better products and services via e-commerce also.
Prince Bazar has been a very popular name in the country’s supermarket industry for quite a long time. In 2005, they came into the business with the first outlet in Mirpur, Dhaka. Another outlet of Prince Bazar is also in Dhaka at Mohammadpur. Despite having a limited number of outlets, Prince Bazar holds a prominent position in the supermarket industry. From vegetables, fish & meat to other groceries, they have thousands of household and fashion items of famous brands.
Daily Shopping is a fast-growing superstore chain operated under the PRAN-RFL Group of Bangladesh. Daily Shopping enters the world of retail chain shops through its first outlet in the capital in 2014. Since its inception, it has shown a steady rise in the supermarket industry. Currently, it has a good number of outlets in major points in Dhaka. All their outlets have fresh produce, baby foods, snacks, footwear, toiletries, electronics, bicycles, etc. Again, Daily Shopping offers all kinds of PRAN-RFL food products, groceries, and home appliances. These PRAN-RFL goods are available here at large discounts throughout the year. Instead of charging VAT directly to the customers, Daily Shopping pays all the VAT on their own.
Almas Super Shop
Almas Super Shop is another diverse retail chain in the country. The main branch of Almas is located at Gulshan in Dhaka. Besides, they have 5 more outlets in different places of Dhaka. In addition to fish, meat, and other groceries, they offer cosmetics, jewelry, toys, footwear, clothing, electronics, and other home appliances. Various types of Sarees and Ladies Bags are hot selling items of Almas Super Shops. And, their cosmetics and personal care items are imported from famous brands and manufacturers.
Lavender Convenience Store
Lavender Convenience Store is an esteemed retail chain in Dhaka city. It’s a sister concern of Elegant Group. There are only 2 outlets of Lavender, located in Gulshan and Badda. These outlets carry fresh produce and daily commodities as well as garments & apparel, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics, household items, and herbal products. There is also a food court in this superstore. Lavender offers memberships to customers in case of buying goods worth a minimum of Tk 3,000 at a time. And, members will get a 2 percent discount on subsequent purchases. Lavender Online is the e-commerce platform of Lavender Convenience Store.
- Websites of the respective companies and supermarkets.
- Reports published on news portals at different times.
Anaet Ullah Biswas
Student | Business Administration,
Mawlana Bhashani Science & Technology University.