Middle East retail client washes downturn out of its hair with novel record-breaking attempt

A retail client in the Middle East is marking new store openings across Saudi Arabia tomorrow with a hair-raising world record attempt. But its show of strength, shine and vitality in the face of the global economic downturn takes a somewhat surprising form. The biggest shop in the word? The tallest tower? No.

Tomorrow, Al Azizia Panda United Company will unveil the world's biggest shampoo bottle. The 4,000-litre bottle of Herbal Essences shampoo will be 4.8m high. It is to be revealed on Thursday at 11am at the Hyperpanda store in Andalus Mall in Jeddah in the presence of a team from the Guinness Book of World Records, who will verify the record.

Reports that Panda's chief executive said the record attempt was “because he is worth it” have not been verified.

Al Azizia Panda United Company operates one of the largest grocery retail chains in Saudi Arabia and is in the midst of ambitious expansion. It had 53 supermarkets and 10 hypermarkets under the Hyper Panda label and one store in Dubai, as recorded at the end of 2007. By 2010, the company plans to have 100 supermarkets, 35 hypermarkets and six Hyper Panda hypermarkets in the UAE.

Established in 1979 as a subsidiary of Savola Group, one of Saudi Arabia's top retail conglomerates, Panda has a company-wide staff of 9,500. By 2010, however, it will have 20,000 employees in Saudi Arabia alone.

Panda's product lines include local items such as goat and camel meats, dairy products and dates. Imports include beef from Brazil, olive oil from Syria and Jordan, Chilean grapes, apples from Egypt, rice from India, and cheese from Europe.

Panda's only store outside Saudi Arabia is the 16,250m2 Hyper Panda in Dubai Festival City, which cost 98m dirhams ($26.7m) and opened in 2007.