Spinneys – The Fresher Experience

Spinneys commemorates its 60th anniversary in the UAE this year – six decades of the utmost customer focus, a growing range of premium products, and the dedication to be the best.

Spinneys, the premium grocery retail business operating 75 stores in the UAE and Oman, has come a long way. The company which today employs 4,500 people, runs 15 of its UAE stores under a Waitrose and Partners licence agreement, and has commercial offices in the US, UK and Australia, started from humble beginnings.

In 1924, Arthur Rawdon Spinney, a British army officer stationed in Alexandria, Egypt, identified a need in the area for imported food products, planting the seed for what would later be one of the Middle East’s leading supermarket chains.

Spinneys’ Dubai story started in 1961, with its first supermarket opening in 1962. At that time, it was known locally as ‘The Frozen Chicken’ – the only retailer to sell frozen chickens from a chiller van.

Today, Spinneys Dubai, owned by UAE national Mr Ali Albwardy, has built up a strong name for supplying top-quality produce and offering a high level of customer service. Food standards, safety and freshness have always been at the forefront of the company’s ethos – just one reason why the Spinneys brand is defined as ‘The fresher experience’.

Solid teamwork

Warwick Gird, General Manager Marketing, says: “We have grown to become a premium retail business within the region, with a strong focus on fresh food. We handpick our suppliers from around the world as well as locally, making sure they meet our stringent requirements on quality as well as more recently a greater focus on sustainability.”

Tom Harvey, General Manager Commercial, agrees: “Suppliers are key to our growth and direct relationships are what is most important to us. Although most of the food consumed in the UAE is still imported, the proportion of local suppliers is growing. We see a strong increase in agriculture and manufacturing within the UAE and that allows us to bring a lot of local fresh products in, products that previously needed to be brought in by air. Sourcing locally is an important part, not only of supporting the local economy but also of reducing our carbon footprint.

He points out that the supply network has remained robust even during the pandemic. “We were among the lucky ones in this respect. Spinneys has a very experienced and very capable senior management team, with several of us having worked through various food crises in the past – this experience enabled us to focus on delivering what our customers and staff need while making sure they work and shop in a safe and comfortable environment.”

“Our team worked pretty much 24/7 over several months, as we were aware of our role and responsibility in supporting the UAE in having a sustainable level of food available to all consumers. All their basic needs were met during the whole pandemic, and we managed to do an extremely good job overall.”

Warwick Gird adds that this sustained performance as a result of the hard work of the Spinneys staff can be counted as one of the company’s greatest achievements. “Spinneys has always been known as a business that looks after and cares for its employees. Dubai is a unique place with a lot of people coming here to support their families who live elsewhere. We have many colleagues in that position, and some of them stay with us for decades, including our CEO who has been with us for 27 years. This retention rate speaks volumes about the values of the company.”

Acting locally

As if the management were not busy enough during the difficult months of the Covid-19 crisis, they managed to spearhead a local initiative to support small start-ups and local entrepreneurs.

In May the company introduced the local business incubator programme to give micro food & beverage (F&B) businesses in UAE the opportunity to list their product at Spinneys for a year with no start-up fees. The incubator programme is in line with the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy to embolden local food production capability and wean the country off a dependence on imported food supplies.

“This incubator programme underscores our commitment to support made-in-the-UAE F&B companies in an effort to enhance the food security system, but also to help drive job creation and economic growth,” explains Tom Harvey.

“It’s an opportunity to show our customers and our community how we are actively investing in them. Spinneys is an integral part of the UAE community and supporting our community is at the core of our values.”

The programme is part of Spinneys’ corporate sustainability initiative ‘Let’s Do Better Together’ which includes minimising food wastage and reducing plastic waste, as well as shifting to renewable energy sources.

Looking beyond the pandemic

Covid-19, with all its negative consequences, has not shaken Spinneys position, and the company is well prepared to meet changed customer behaviour, with many still preferring to eat at home.

“As a premium retailer, this is positive for us. The customers who used to eat out still want to enjoy great food and Spinneys, with its vast selection of top-quality food, is the obvious place to go. To enjoy restaurant quality in your home is something that Spinneys can and does provide,” says Tom Harvey, noting that, interestingly, the greatest growth has been seen in Spinneys top premium ranges, as people were trading up to the very best.

Looking beyond the pandemic, he sees a promising future, pointing out that the region has reacted quickly to developments post-Covid. “The UAE is known as a place that is ambitious. We are always looking for new opportunities, trying to attract new customers and to build market share, assessing expansion both in the UAE and more widely across the Gulf. This business has to expand, to evolve, to always be a step ahead.”

The management is well aware that this expansion can only be achieved with the right human capital. Spinneys promotes a family atmosphere and looks after its staff wherever in the world they come from. “We continuously invest in the development of our colleagues, and are proud of our dedicated employees, the foundation of the company’s success and its future growth,” concludes Warwick Gird.











Tom Harvey                           Warwick Gird 

GM Commercial, Spinneys         GM Marketing, Spinneys


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