The Casino Group has announced it is stepping up its 110-store-strong presence in the North Africa and Middle East regions, which offer major growth potential.

The Group is pursuing its expansion in the Middle East by opening a Géant hypermarket in Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi’s largest shopping destination and the second-largest in the United Arab Emirates. The retail complex extends over 235,000 square meters, offers parking facilities for 10,000 vehicles and boasts more than 300 stores.

With a surface area of 10,000 square meters, the new Géant hypermarket incorporates the Group’s latest concepts and offers its customers a wide selection of products, including private labels such as Casino Délices and Casino Bio.

Casino said that the franchise’s fast-paced growth is driven by agreements with local partners:  fu-com is developing Géant hypermarkets in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait; Al Meera is spearheading Géant’s establishment in Qatar; the Monoprix banner is managed by the Ali Bin Ali Group in Qatar and ADMIC in Lebanon; and in Tunisia, the Géant hypermarket and Monoprix banners are franchised to Mabrouk.

“These robust, sustainable partnerships allow Casino to expand its banners’ presence and win new customers,” Casino said.

“The 2015 expansion program includes five new openings in the United Arab Emirates, of which three are Géant hypermarkets and 10 openings in Tunisia.”

Meanwhile, major French competitor Carrefour is launching a scheme in Belgium which matches prices with Ahold and Carrefour is also improving its pricing in France and Spain.

In Belgium, the price matching scheme is a local initiative, which will see two Carrefour stores pay customers five times the price difference if they find the same product cheaper at the nearby Albert Heijn store, according to IGD research.

Heavily advertised in-store, the scheme is aimed at improving customers’ perception of Carrefour’s prices amid toughening competition in Belgium, while Carrefour said it will not be introduced nationally.

In France, Carrefour continues to make cuts, with prices in November reaching their lowest ever level according to reports, while Casino also improved its price positioning as both retailers compete with Leclerc.

“Ongoing deflation on branded products in France is likely to continue to put pressure on retailers’ and suppliers’ margins into the first quarter of 2015, which is likely to impact further on the supply chains of both parties by requiring them to cut costs in order to maintain profitability,” IGD said.

“Improving its price positioning globally has been a focus for Carrefour for some time, although more important in some areas (e.g. the French hypermarket business) than others; even the connected hypermarket at Villeneuve-la-Garenne in Paris has an ‘éco-corner’ which carries a range of brands at low prices.”

In Spain, the Supeco format is being used to target shoppers looking for value. Work to date is having an effect, as CFO Pierre-Jean Sivignon pointed out in the first half results, while Carrefour will want to maintain momentum and stay ahead of rivals in such a competitive environment.