Virgin Megastore and SmartBuy: taking electronics and media retail to the next level

Around four years ago, I wanted to buy a simple tripod for my video camera in Amman. I went on a great tour of the city and found nothing to buy. Nothing.

Fast forward to 2007: I could shop for one at Prime Megstore, Carrefour’s electronic department or the two newly opened Virgin Megastore at City Mall or SmartBuy, the rather huge megastore at Cozmo.

I tried to visit Virigin megastore shortly after the “false warning” that fellow blogger Moey’s gave out (no, dude, it did not open September 5th :-) . But the other day, while scouring both City Mall and Mecca Mall (in vain) for a sports accessory (a simple foam “roller” for my aching back) I noticed that Virgin Megastore had opened. It’s pretty good. It even had a new iMac displayed in the shop window..

BTW: does anyone out there know where I can get these (from Reebok or any other brand):

Reebok Roller

Not one sports shop in the malls had them (and most sales people have never heard of them!)

Anyway..

I will not repeat what others have said about Virgin. But I will definitely return there to have another look.

BTW: My first Virgin Megastore experience was in Beirut in 2003. Now that was something!

Last Friday, I dragged the whole family to SmartBuy.

Wow. It is pretty big. This is a guy’s heaven. Which means I have to go there ALONE next time. I did not have a chance to look at everything properly.

I did some price comparisons and found that SmartBuy basically adheres to the 1$=1JD formula. This formula makes electronics excessively expensive for most of us. Just consider the average income levels in ‘middle class’ Amman (let alone the rest of Jordan) and it becomes clear that paying 30-50% more for electronics than what a wealthier consumer in the US pays and you’ll start to wonder how those electronics megastores are going to make it.
SmartBuy

But hey.. the investors behind these ventures probably/hopefully know better.

They are going for the mainstream. SmartBuy is running a huge ad campaign in the papers these days. Let’s hope they start price wars which will benefit consumers.

The best thing about the two new store is that they have their wares displayed in a way you can touch them.

This is a step up from Prime Megastore which still has digital cameras tucked away like precious diamonds in glass display cases.

Years ago I ended up buying my tripod online (I wont even go into the story on how difficult it was getting it out of Jordan Post package department in downtown Amman. It was as if I was smuggling North Korean nuclear technology into Jordan).

Now I can try my luck at several electronics stores/megastores. And that’s something good.


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16 Responses to “Virgin Megastore and SmartBuy: taking electronics and media retail to the next level”

  1. Mustafa Anabtawi Says:

    On a side note, why don’t you just open a shopAndShip account with Aramex, and get a US address, in that way you can buy anything you want online, have it shipped to that address and they will deliver it to you, iv been using this service for more than 2 years, it’s awesome!

  2. Moey Says:

    Hey ahmed, well the management of virgin gave me that false alarm… lol, nothing works on tv in jordan, the arab standard time as usual.

    and the foam roller is available here in Kuwait, in go sports, orient sports and the athelete’s foot :) let me know before end of the month if you couldn’t get them ;)

    cheers!

  3. Nas Says:

    smartbuy is alright but like you said, a bit pricey. flash memory seems to be on average 1gb for 10JDs. The only “cheap” thing I saw was a panasonic car kit for an external device like an ipod, for 12JDs.

    anyways, its nice to have a place where you can at least window shop even if you’re not buying.

    then again, out of sight, out of mind.

    (p.s. think you meant smart and not bestbuy in the title)

  4. Dave Says:

    I know all about the downtown Amman postal pickup. I’m sorry you had to go through that, dude. It’s a tragedy.

  5. Humeid Says:

    Nas.. thanks.. title corrected

    Moey.. thanks for the offer to help. Will let you know

  6. Pheras Hilal Says:

    Well, I have to admit that the Virgin store here is still not on par with the ones in Beirut (not even the store in ABC), but I think the owners are testing the waters, and if all works well, we might see a couple more bigger branches.

    As for SmartBuy, you’re right Humeid, it is a haven of electronics. I spent hours in the store, it really is a piece of work. I really didn’t check prices that much, but I’m quite sure that they charge reasonable prices for the cameras. What’s good is that they don’t have much generic stuff (which might explain why a flash memory disc comes with a hefty price tag).

  7. BILAL Says:

    Carrefour started the price war and he was very successful. I go there and buy things blindly, they even sometimes sell at lower price than the dealer himself.
    I don’t think Smartbuy will lower prices, they will act as Cozmo, for speicifc segment.

  8. Hal Says:

    I understand from the VIrgin Megastore franchisee here that they have only had a soft opening so far, and are waiting before they launch their official opening, because suppliers have not yet delivered on a lot of products, which might explain why some parts of the store still feel a bit bare (books section, mainly). Should be happening soon, I hope.

  9. Bilal - Black Jack Says:

    Glad to hear stores like this are coming and opening in amman. We men, love gadgets. its a guy thing :D

    now that these stores are open, lets hope people know where to go to buy gifts for father’s day :-)

    Downtown postal pick up office is a nightmare. horrible experiences. I dont even know where to begin. its like what humeid said, smuggling nuclear data. that place is unacceptable.

    no wonder jordan missed the train of e-commerce.

  10. nasimjo Says:

    actually, I was amazed about SmartBuy!
    they really do have good prices, and very well to be compared to Carrefour. but i guess ur talking in here more about the CAMs, gadgets, and such stuff ,, which i mentioned some of them have higher prices. while I mainly got oriented to electronics.. and I didnt find ur 1$=1JD out there! I even found some prices less than Aldeasa airport FreeShop in Amman!

    Yes, Carrefour is the best in town as far as electronics is concerned, from now, i shall be checking SmartBuy for price comparisons….

    Good bye dealers stores!

  11. Sid Vicious Says:

    Finally, places where people might actually know a bit about electronics (I hope).

    All we need now is an Apple Store in Jordan (not gonna happen).

    And iSystem can go to hell. What kind of an store actually offers an iPhone unlocking service while the whole corporate parent is cracking down on such activities?

  12. Khawaja M. Says:

    Thanks for adding Ahmad…

    Actually, I love shopping in such stores… my appetite is high to buy state of the art technology products.

    Guys… I’m seeking for a GPS unit that to be connected to PC or mobile via bluetooth. Do you think I could find it @ SmartBuy? kindly advise.

  13. Zoohair Says:

    Try Ebay you should find w/e you want

  14. Ahmed Says:

    I love electronics Mega stores .. it’s originally an American style but a very successful way ..

    Good enough they’re starting to roll into the Arab World .. not that fast but at least they’re going in ..

  15. Mike Says:

    This is a bit late comment, but anyways…

    I’m glad to see some electronics mega stores is finally in Jordan, although many people don’t have the luxury of buying expensive electronics due to the terrible economic state for most people.

    And I really hope to see a proper return-and-get-a-full-refund-if-you’re-not-satisfied kinda system soon in those mega stores, we really need that.

    Peace.

  16. Peter Chesterfield Says:

    Does any one know if Virgin radio will go on air in Amman Jordan,as I have been told that will make the Virgin stores go very big

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