Why Rami Bitar’s Tawfeer Supermarkets Have Become a Staple for the Lebanese Shoppers
In a crisis that could be called the worst economic situation in 30 years, and with over 70% of the Lebanese population below poverty line, discount supermarkets have just become another tool in a fight for survival. A regular walk into any supermarket would show you skyrocketing increase in prices of all goods whether essential or considered “luxury”.
This situation has been exacerbated by the global pandemic, the mass layoffs and the country’s exodus of companies and organizations that have sought refuge somewhere else. The crisis has caused the value of the Lebanese pound to plummet to record lows. Furthermore, Lebanon imports about 80 percent of the goods it consumes, based on a governmental policy adopted 30 years ago that abolished the industrial economy in Lebanon and instead favored banking clientelism and remittances as a main source of income.
SO now that food items today cost about ten times more than in 2019, there is a need for a more affordable chain of supermarkets that can cater to that underprivileged 70%.
With over 30 stores nationwide, Tawfeer supermarkets have become the new refuge to Lebanese shoppers that do not want to feel a burdened and heavy heart with every grocery shopping spree. It’s main unique selling point is that consumers find all their basic shopping needs at cheapest price in the market. From weekly specials to affordable international and local brands to daily discounts, Tawfeer has become a staple for the Lebanese residents when it comes to shopping for their basic needs.
Mr. Rami Bitar, CEO of Tawfeer, says: “We cannot take part in the destruction of the Lebanese community nor in the abuse of their pockets. We are here as partners in their struggle as we ourselves are facing that fight as well.”
According to the Lebanese ministry of economics, the price of cooking oil has increased by 37x, milk by 7x, rice by 19x, chicken by 9x and the list goes on and on and on. While the inflation, economic collapse, global supply chain shortages and the situation between Russia and Ukraine do play a role in the explosion of prices, one thing is for sure, greed is a factor as well. Many inflated prices should have gone up true, but not as much as they did. Tawfeer Supermarkets have created a competitive advantage here with their refusal to increase prices beyond reason. Rami Bitar adds: “We cannot control the black-market rate, or the economic collapse or international circumstances beyond our reach but we can control our greed and expand our design thinking to find better ways to supply Lebanese with the best product versus price.”
A report by UNESCWA in 2020 found that Lebanon has one of the most unequal wealth distributions around the world. About 70 percent of the country’s personal wealth is owned by only 10 percent of its adults. The figures now have become even more dramatically unequal. In light of all of these circumstances, finding few places of refuge for the average citizen have become are a rare but much needed commodity.