GN Focus | Ramadan & Eid

Retailers cash in on Eid

As life turns around during Ramadan, consumption patterns change too, both here in the Middle East and in Muslim communities around the world

  • By Shalini Seth | Specialist Writer
  • Published: 00:00 August 8, 2012

  • Image Credit: Corbis
  • People shop ahead of Eid at the Hamid Diaz market in Damascus. More and more secular companies are targeting Muslim consumers

According to research from market analysts Euromonitor, an increasing number of secular companies are incorporating Islamic religious requirements into their marketing. With world Muslim populations growing at a rate of 1.8 per cent every year according to muslimpopulation.com, this makes excellent commercial sense.

One of the forerunners of the trend was advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, which established a new global arm, Ogilvy Noor (Noor means 'light' in Arabic) describing it as "the world's first bespoke Islamic branding practice" in 2010.

In many markets around the world, including here in the UAE, but perhaps best exemplified by Singapore, Ramadan and Eid affect consumption patterns much the same way as Christmas does. Here's how:

Eid effects: In London, luxury shops prepare to attract wealthy Arab shoppers in the run-up to Ramadan. According to Euromonitor, citing trade sources/national statistics, some five-star hotels are reporting 80 per cent Middle Eastern occupancy. The pre-Ramadan spending spree boosts the profits at high-end stores such as Selfridges and Harrods, with the average Saudi shopper spending 1,900 pounds (about Dh10,854) - double that for the month before Ramadan. Saudi visitors are reported to be up 22 per cent year-on-year, while visitors from the UAE have risen to almost 120,000 - up nearly 10 per cent.

 Euromonitor's research manager, Sana Toukan tells GN Focus: "Even in countries such as the US and the UK, retailers allocate aisles for Ramadan treats. Companies are starting to recognise the high purchase power of people." 

The UK's Tesco supermarket, for example, specifically targets Muslims at this time of the year with its World Foods product line. In July 2011, US-based Halal foods brand, Saffron Road, partnered with US supermarket chain Whole Foods Market on various promotional competitions and online campaigns. The initiative took place during Ramadan, and Saffron Road created blog posts for the supermarket's site, and ran competitions giving shoppers the chance to win Whole Foods Market gift cards, as well as own-brand Halal products. According to Saffron Road, sales surged 300 per cent during Ramadan while its fan base on Facebook increased by 200 per cent.

Toukan cites the example of sale of goods at UK's luxury retailer, Harrods: "Saudi nationals travel there during Ramadan and Eid and this has a direct impact on their sales. During the run up to Eid, Saudis directly contribute to the retail market and to the GDP."

Food focus: Despite economic differences between Muslims in Pakistan and Qatar, Somalia and Indonesia, the Muslim world is united in celebrating the 30 days of Ramadan. Iftar works as a unifier. Euromonitor says that this makes food the main - and most affordable - personal indulgence for Muslims.

Toukan says, "We see a clear demand for baked goods and dairy not only in the UAE but in Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well. Sales of rice, pasta, and canned vegetables go up. These are used in every home. Most people are cooking indoors. We see a clear spike in sales of food service outlets, not just in terms of people going out to eat but also due to higher prices for iftar buffets. That means Ramadan and Eid are a time for value sales.

"In many parts of the world, and to an extent in the UAE, people are switching to health foods. More 'light' options are available such as light condensed milk and light variations of yoghurt. The government is also concentrating on health awareness. Among the local population, you see sales of confectionaries go up."

In the UAE, prices of 1,650 basic commodities have been frozen until the end of 2012 after the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) reached an agreement with 320 retailers, according to a statement from the Ministry of Economy.
This initiative is party aimed at limiting the price inflation that usually occurs during Ramadan.

Festive gadgets: In Indonesia it has become something of a ritual for consumers to upgrade their mobile phones during the Ramadan and Eid religious celebrations. Toukan says, "Gadgets are offered as gifts on Eid. Ramadan is considered the month of giving. We notice a surge in sales of consumer electronics and clothing.

"When low-skilled workers travel back home they buy consumer appliances. In Asia, you see a similar trend. The GCC has a high per capita income, so there is more spend on high-ticket items such as jewellery and gold."

An Olympic Ramadan:Euromonitor reports that for the first time, the Olympics are taking place during Ramadan, and in a spirit of collaboration and friendship, mosques across the UK are opening their iftar celebrations to neighbours, visitors, Muslims, non-Muslims, officials and Olympic athletes from across the world.

The iftar 2012 team is working with the London Olympic committee, UK Government Departments, the Metropolitan Police, Islamic Relief, The Scout Association, Muslim Scout fellowship, the Islam Channel and some of the biggest mosques in the country to extend a welcome to all visitors and to make the iftar 2012 campaign safe, special and spiritual. All events are publicised on the iftar2012.com website, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.