How to Start a Supermarket, Grocery Store, Mini Store or Baqala with Meydan Free Zone

Nicky Peng

Nicky Peng

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A retail business is an enterprise that sells goods or services directly to customers for personal or household use. Retail businesses can range from small mom-and-pop stores to large multinational chains, and they can sell a wide variety of products, including clothing, electronics, home goods, and food.

A supermarket is a large retail store that primarily sells food and household goods. Supermarkets typically have a wide range of products, including fresh produce, meats, dairy products, packaged foods, and cleaning supplies. They often have a bakery, deli, and pharmacy, as well as a large parking lot for customers. Supermarkets may be subject to additional regulations and requirements due to their size and scope of operations.

A grocery store, on the other hand, is a smaller retail store that also primarily sells food and household goods. Grocery stores typically have a more limited selection of products than supermarkets and may not have a pharmacy or other specialty departments. They may also have a smaller parking lot or none at all. Grocery stores may be subject to fewer regulations and requirements than supermarkets due to their smaller size and scope of operations.

A “baqala” is a small grocery store found in Abu Dhabi, which is named so based on Municipality regulations. It is a convenient one-stop-shop for many everyday items that people need on a regular basis. Baqalas typically sell a wide range of food items, including fresh produce, bread, dairy products, canned goods, snacks, and sweets. They also offer a variety of beverages such as soft drinks, bottled water, fruit juices, tea, and coffee. Additionally, many baqalas sell cleaning supplies, personal care products, tobacco products, phone cards and SIM cards, and basic household items like light bulbs and batteries.

Finally, a mini store, sometimes called a convenience store or a corner store, is a very small retail store that sells a limited range of products, often including snacks, beverages, cigarettes, and other convenience items. Mini stores may be located in urban areas or near residential neighbourhoods, and they often have long operating hours, including evenings and weekends. They are usually found near EPPCO fuel stations. Mini stores may be subject to less regulation than supermarkets or grocery stores due to their small size and limited product offerings.

In Dubai, all retail businesses are required to obtain a trade license, regardless of their size or type. Failing to obtain the necessary license may lead to legal repercussions and penalties.

4711.92 Supermarket

The retail sale of a large variety of goods is a business activity that encompasses a diverse range of products. Food products, beverages, or tobacco are the primary items sold. This includes general stores that sell a mix of products, such as wearing apparel, furniture, appliances, hardware, cosmetics, and other goods, but with a focus on food products. 

Additionally, fuel stations that offer food and beverage sales alongside fuel sales fall under this category. It’s crucial for businesses in this category to have a strong emphasis on food and beverage sales to meet the criteria. Reselling packaged or prepared beverages is also a part of this activity.  

These businesses have the opportunity to offer a wide range of products to customers and are essential in providing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel.

Exclusions

While the retail sale of a large variety of goods primarily focuses on food products, beverages, and tobacco, it’s important to note that this activity specifically excludes the retail sale of fuel in combination with food, beverages, or other items, with fuel sales dominating. This means that businesses that predominantly sell fuel, such as gas stations, are not considered a part of this activity because although they may sell food and beverages, their primary focus is on fuel sales rather than retailing a diverse range of goods.

Third-Party Approvals – Post License

To operate a successful supermarket business that can attract and retain customers, it’s important to obtain approval from the Food Safety Department of the Dubai Municipality post obtaining the license from Meydan Free Zone.

By obtaining this approval, businesses can show their commitment to ensuring the safety and quality of the food products they offer to their customers. The Food Safety Department plays a critical role in regulating the food industry in Dubai and works to ensure that all businesses operate in compliance with established guidelines. As such, obtaining their approval can help to build customer trust and confidence in a supermarket business.

4711.93 Grocery Store

A grocery store is a type of business that falls under the retail sale of a large variety of goods, with a focus on food products, beverages, and tobacco. It’s essential for grocery stores to prioritise the sale of these items as they form the core of their business. However, grocery stores can also offer other products such as wearing apparel, furniture, appliances, hardware, and cosmetics to enhance their customer’s shopping experience. 

Fuel stations that sell fuel in combination with food and beverages can also be classified as a type of grocery store, provided that food and beverage sales dominate over fuel sales. Additionally, the reselling of packaged or prepared beverages is also a common activity in grocery stores. Offering a wide range of products is essential for grocery stores to cater to the diverse needs of their customers. 

Exclusions

It’s important to note that while grocery stores can offer fuel for sale alongside food, beverages, and other products, businesses that prioritise fuel sales over the sale of food and beverages are not classified as grocery stores. The focus of a grocery store should be on providing a range of food products, beverages, and tobacco, with these items being the predominant products sold. The retail sale of fuel requires different regulations and guidelines, as fuel sales involve specific safety and environmental protocols. 

Businesses that primarily sell fuel and offer food and beverages as secondary products should be categorised differently from grocery stores. By distinguishing between these types of businesses, it’s possible to ensure that regulations and guidelines are tailored to each business’s unique needs, which helps to promote safety and compliance.

Third-Party Approvals – Post License

To run a successful grocery store business that can attract and retain customers, it’s important to obtain approval from the Food Safety Department of the Dubai Municipality post obtaining the license from Meydan Free Zone. This step is essential to ensure that the grocery store adheres to the guidelines and regulations set by the Food Safety Department. By obtaining approval, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to providing safe and high-quality food products to their customers. 

4711.94 Mini Store

A mini store is a type of retail business that focuses on the sale of a large variety of goods, with food products, beverages, and tobacco forming the predominant products sold. In addition to these items, mini stores may also sell other products such as wearing apparel, furniture, appliances, hardware, and cosmetics to enhance their customers’ shopping experience. 

Similar to grocery stores, mini stores may also sell fuel in combination with food and beverages, provided that food and beverage sales dominate over fuel sales. Additionally, mini stores may engage in the reselling of packaged or prepared beverages. By offering a wide range of products, mini stores can cater to the diverse needs of their customers, making them a convenient shopping destination. 

Exclusions

It’s worth noting that the retail sale of fuel in combination with food and beverages, with fuel sales dominating, is not considered a core activity of a mini store. While mini stores may offer fuel as a secondary product, the main focus should be on the sale of food products, beverages, and tobacco, with these items forming the predominant products sold.

Third-Party Approvals – Post License

To operate a successful mini-store business and attract a loyal customer base, it’s important to obtain approval from the Food Safety Department of the Dubai Municipality post obtaining the license. This approval guarantees that the mini store complies with the established standards and regulations related to food safety, ensuring that customers have access to safe and high-quality products. 

4711.99 Floating Mini Store 

A floating mini-store is a unique type of retail operation that involves selling a wide variety of goods, with a particular focus on food products, beverages, and tobacco. These stores may offer a range of additional items, such as clothing, furniture, appliances, and cosmetics, among other products. 

One interesting aspect of a floating mini store is that it can sell goods from a floating platform, such as a boat or a barge, allowing it to reach customers in a variety of different locations. In addition to selling goods directly to customers, floating mini stores may also sell fuel in combination with food and beverages, although food and beverage sales are typically the dominant revenue stream. 

Floating mini stores may resell packaged and prepared beverages, providing customers with a convenient and easy way to purchase their favourite drinks. Overall, this type of business can offer a unique and interesting shopping experience and may be particularly popular in areas where waterways are an important part of the local transportation network.

Exclusions

It’s important to note that certain business activities are excluded under 4711.99. 

For instance, the retail sale of fuel in combination with food, beverages, or any other items is not permitted if fuel sales are expected to dominate the overall sales. 

It’s essential to check with the relevant authorities to ensure that your floating mini-store business complies with all the regulations and standards.

Third-Party Approvals – Pre License

To establish and maintain a floating mini-store business, it is imperative to acquire the Food Safety Department’s (Dubai Municipality) approval prior to applying for a license. This helps to ensure that the provider complies with the Food Safety Department’s rules and regulations.

5610.99 Restaurant & Mini Store 

This type of business activity involves the provision of food services to customers, regardless of whether they choose to dine in, take out, or have their meals delivered. It encompasses both sit-down restaurants and self-service options where customers choose items from a display. 

Additionally, food preparation and serving activities from mobile carts or motorised vehicles are included. This could include establishments such as cafeterias, fast-food restaurants, and pizza delivery services, as well as ice cream truck vendors and mobile food carts. 

Food preparation activities in market stalls, as well as restaurant and bar activities connected to transportation, are also included. This business activity even extends to restaurant and bar services provided on board ships, as long as they are operated by separate units. Finally, the retail sale of prepared food for immediate consumption through mobile food vendors is also included.

Exclusions

This classification does not cover the operation of eating facilities as a concession, where a third party is granted the right to operate food services within a specific location, such as a stadium or amusement park. 

This is because the concessionaire operates under a different business model and typically has a different contractual relationship with the property owner than a standalone food service provider. Therefore, concession operations are not included in this classification, which focuses on businesses that operate food services independently.

Third-Party Approvals – Post License

To operate a business that combines a restaurant and mini-store, and to ensure the attraction and retention of customers, it is mandatory to obtain approval from the Food Safety Department of Dubai Municipality post obtaining a license.

ESR

To comply with the ‘Economic Substance Test’ (EST), specific types of businesses must be managed or directed from within the UAE, maintain an adequate number of full-time staff located in the UAE, generate the majority of their income within the UAE, possess enough assets, and exhibit sufficient operational expenses in the UAE. 

This evaluation is reported through the submission of the ESR within one year of the end of the financial year. Companies with a fiscal year that began on or after January 1st, 2019, and ended on or before December 31st, 2019, for example, must file the notification. Newly established companies must submit their Economic Substance Return in the following year if their activity requires ESR. 

Business activities 4711.92, 4711.93, 4711.94, 4711.99, and 5610.99 are not subject to ESR.

AML

Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions are required to comply with anti-money laundering laws, combat the financing of terrorism and illegal organisations, and implement Ministry of Economy requirements. An existing licensee has already registered for goAML after the awareness campaign ended on April 30th, 2021. 

The Ministry of Economy will impose fines on those who fail to meet the requirements before the campaign deadline, therefore new licensees must comply with the requirements after obtaining their license to avoid potential fines. 

Business activities 4711.92, 4711.93, 4711.94, 4711.99, and 5610.99 are not subject to AML regulations.

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2. Business license recognised by MoFA and Dubai Chamber Of Commerce

3. Open an online shop and choose from over 30 plus marketplaces.

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