“Is Day Mart actually cheaper?” That was the question on everybody’s mind in the weeks following Sept. 16, when the new convenience store opened on campus. Its opening came on the heels of a shift in student study support disbursement at NYU Abu Dhabi, which limited students to [Falcon Dirhams] (https://www.thegazelle.org/issue/204/opinion/stipend-editorial-we-ask-for-more) that can only be used on campus.
This sudden policy change restricted students’ flexibility in choosing how to manage their finances. For instance, there was only one convenience store on campus, Blue Mart, where students could buy their groceries and essentials. However, Blue Mart offered products at exorbitant prices
compared to other supermarket chains like Lulu Hypermarket.
Student representatives then pushed for the university to consider employing a convenience store vendor with lower prices. Following this advocacy, the Office of Public Affairs and Communications announced in mid-September that NYUAD had finalized a contract with Day Mart to replace Blue Mart as the on-campus convenience store provider. On the morning of Sept. 16, students entered the convenience store brimming with hope and skepticism about whether this new vendor would bring more affordable products.
To find a more definitive answer to this question, I decided to collect some data. Last summer, Grace Bechdol, Editor in Chief of The Gazelle and Chief of Staff of Student Government, gathered data about the prices of 90 products at Blue Mart and Lulu Hypermarket. Simran Parwani, a former Data Visualization Editor at The Gazelle, analyzed this dataset and discovered that Blue Mart overcharged students
for most products. After a few visits to Day Mart, I was able to find 62 of those products and add their prices to the dataset. Given that the dataset includes a diverse, albeit small, sample of products, we can analyze it to get a fairly comprehensive view of price differences between the stores. We can also use our data on Lulu Hypermarket to check how Day Mart’s prices compare to a large supermarket chain in the UAE.
Prices of Products in Day Mart, Blue Mart and Lulu Hypermarket
This scatter plot filters all the products by category and shows the price of each product at Blue Mart, Day Mart and Lulu Hypermarket. The visualization reveals that for most products in our sample, the price at Day Mart is less than or equivalent to the price at Blue Mart. For example, in the Toiletries category, 8 out of 11 products are cheaper at Day Mart, while in the Snacks category, 10 out of 11 products are cheaper. The price difference can be as minimal as half a dirham, such as with the Lifebuoy Handwash, or as large as eight dirhams, as is the case with the Nescafe Gold Jar. Two of the products are even cheaper at Day Mart than they are at Lulu. For instance, Dettol hand sanitizer costs 13.75 AED in Lulu, while it costs 12.79 AED at Day Mart.
While Day Mart seems to be cheaper than Blue Mart overall, there are a few significant exceptions, especially in the categories of Toiletries and Household Supplies. Sensodyne Rapid Action toothpaste, Always menstrual pads and Fine toilet rolls are all more expensive at Day Mart than they were at Blue Mart. Since many students consider these products essential and buy them regularly, even a small increase in these products’ prices may significantly affect student spending in the long run.
Percentage of Price Change from Blue Mart to Day Mart
We learned that Day Mart products are generally less expensive than their counterparts at Blue Mart, but how much cheaper are they? This graph displays the percentage change of product prices from Blue Mart to Day Mart. Looking at all categories, it appears that most products are at most 20% cheaper at Day Mart than Blue Mart. Some products, such as Nature Valley’s Salted Caramel protein bars, will save you as much as 30% at Day Mart. Others, such as the Alpro Soya Original drink, have only decreased by 0.06%, while a few like Indomie Vegetable Noodles have not changed at all.
On the other hand, most of the products whose prices increased at Day Mart are around 10% more expensive. Notable exceptions include the Sensodyne Rapid Action toothpaste, which witnessed the most change among all products and increased by almost 43%. Lusine multigrain bread and Fine toilet roll also increased by around 16%, while Always pads now cost 20% more than before.
Average Change in Price from Blue Mart to Day Mart by Category
This bar chart indicates that, on average, prices decreased by 3-15% in most categories. In toiletries and household supplies, however, prices witnessed an average increase of 0.72% and 3.4% respectively, most likely as a result of the aforementioned products.
Analyzing our data reveals that prices at Day Mart are generally cheaper than they were at Blue Mart. However, even without collecting this data, many students had already discovered that they were saving money at Day Mart.
Hannah Chu, Class of 2023, said that “the fresh produce, especially fruits such as berries, have been cheaper at Daymart compared to Bluemart”. Other students have noted that bananas, which used to be around eight dirhams and 50 fils, are now sold at half that price.
The rest of the student body seems to echo these sentiments. Hayoung Song, Class of 2023 and Chair of the Student Government Dining Committee, recently conducted a survey to gather student feedback on Day Mart. She explains that students have responded very positively to the new convenience store, citing lower prices as its best feature.
“It seems like price is the biggest advantage so far and it is being recognized. Some suggestions we have received include having more staff as lines can get long, bringing more Korean products back, more feminine products and bringing back the dry cleaning service,“ she explains.
In addition to saving them money, students have noted other advantages of the new convenience store over Blue Mart. Song mentions cleanliness, range of products and staff friendliness as the most commonly praised aspects of Day Mart in the survey. She also notes that the store’s staff are very receptive to student requests for new products.
“The staff is super amazing and we are excited to work on bringing in new products such as technology and products that the students request,” she remarks.
The visualizations above revealed that there is a wide range in price differences between Day Mart and Blue Mart: some products cost exactly the same, others are only slightly less expensive, while still others are significantly cheaper at Day Mart. Therefore, in practice, how much money will students actually be able to save on groceries at Day Mart?
The Cumulative Effect
The tool above simulates a shopping experience at the convenience store. The products are listed throughout multiple pages on the left, while a shopping cart keeps track of your groceries on the right. The search bar on the top can help you quickly find what you are looking for and the home button on the left will re-display the entire list of products.
Reflect on your own regular grocery shopping experience and add your groceries to the shopping cart. The tool automatically calculates the total amount you would have spent on these groceries at both Day Mart and Blue Mart and it displays the amount of money you saved by shopping at Day Mart. If you purchase these same groceries multiple times throughout a semester, you can enter the number of times you would buy them in a month and the tool will calculate the total amount you will save per semester at Day Mart.
It appears that, while most products are generally cheaper at Day Mart, these price decreases are sometimes offset by large increases in the prices of some other products, such as the toilet rolls. In practice, the amount of money a student saves at the new convenience store heavily depends on what kind of items they purchase, how much cheaper they are and whether they purchase any items that are more expensive. In addition, some categories of products that are not represented in our data, such as fresh produce, may have more significant price differences than the products in our dataset. Despite the fact that Day Mart’s money saving effect varies in each case, it still stands that the new convenience store offers other advantages that students care about, such as a more diverse range of products and openness to feedback.
Reem Hazim is a Data Editor. Email them at email@example.com.