The Moroccan company Marjane, which runs 32 supermarkets across the country, has decided to stop all sales of alcohol. It appears that the move has been planned for as long as 18 months (see update here-
In Fez, Marjane has suffered from the competition from Carrefour's popular new outlet at Borj Fez. Yet, if the reason is a practical economic one, it seems to make little sense as a majority of the wine (for example) purchased in Morocco is consumed by Moroccans.
According to a report in Morocco World News, the Marjane administration had faced sharp criticism for selling alcohol in high-crime areas. There have been series of protests by local residents against these stores especially in Temara where 17 people were arrested during a demonstration in the summer of 2012.
So far, Marjane hasn’t justified the decision, and clients and providers alike wonder about the reasons that prompted the holding to stop selling alcoholic beverages. Whatever reasons the company eventually puts forward there seems little hope they will win back their many dissatisfied customers.
A local wine expert in Fez informed The View from Fez: " FYI marjane on route d'Imouzzer has closed its wine and beer section for good. Though Oud Fez is still serving."
Was 2012 a test run?
Back on August 2012 shoppers in several Marjane stores in Casablanca were surprised to find the wine and beer sections closed. At first it was thought to have been simply a result of staff being slow to restock after the Eid holiday when it has been tradition to remove alcohol from the shelves. (See our story here)
On the Friday after Eid 2012 that was to mark the date of resumption of the sale of alcohol by different distributors in Morocco (supermarkets, taverns, etc) Marjane delivered a surprise when three of its stores failed to re-opened their alcohol shelves. At the time there was talk of at least seven stores stopping alcohol sales. The rumours about Marjane's intentions had been circulated during the month of Ramadan but had not been taken seriously by most suppliers and customers.
In 2012 various rumours suggested reasons for Marjane's decision, most of them economic, in light of the growing number of competitors that Marjane was facing. Other suggestions included the selective shutting of outlets in areas where the presence of "the many illegal dealers" was causing social unrest and that the ban would "...end the fighting caused by dozens of idle, drunken, rodents near three of the hypermarkets." An official from Marjane told AFP that the problem was the supermarkets being close to "sensitive" neighbourhoods ".
The decision in 2012 was not taken under pressure from Islamists, said a Marjane spokesperson at the time.