Shopping during Ramadan is about two distinct halves, with the first one given to rigorous planning about grocery stocks and all the rest of it. Enter the second-half and consumers’ thought veer towards the serious pursuit of Eid gifts and the extended break.
Since 2020, however, planning for purchases during Ramadan has been anything but straight-forward. It was played against the backdrop of COVID-19, more so in 2020 than last year. Shoppers in the UAE and other Gulf markets had to make adjustments, and that they did, driving online sales during Ramadan to never-before-seen realms.
2022, based on market feedback, is more of a hybrid, with brick-and-mortar retail matching online portals on offers and merchandise mix. Even then, there are uncertainties to be dealt with – that of ensuring enough supplies are within reach of the consumer at all times. And at competitive prices despite the steady spiral of shipping cost increases.
Tanweer Anwar, Vice-President of Commercial Planning at the e-marketplace noon, knows all about taking on challenges. He offers an insight on how noon is confronting costs and stocks.
Supply chain is becoming an issue for a third straight year – did it mean that noon had to start early on booking orders for all the Ramadan-related stock build up?
During Ramadan, customers increasingly purchase from home grocery, beauty, and fashion categories - which have not been impacted by the supply chain issue. To stay ahead, we worked closely with partners to ensure we have an assortment and stock availability on noon throughout Ramadan.
Going with recent history, physical retail is back to near full form with promotions for Ramadan. Do you think given the general price inflation, the range of promotions offered online and offline has reduced?
The team at noon has worked hard to deliver competitive prices across the app. During Ramadan, we will also have incredible promotions for our customers.
Apart from the prices, will noon offer special one-offs like across the board removal of delivery fees during Ramadan?
Customers are drawn to sales events by a variety of activities such as ‘crazy deals’, raffles, and limited-time ‘frenzy offers’, all of which noon has. Our VIP customers can get all noon express items for free with no minimum order amount. Customers in Saudi Arabia receive free delivery on all express orders over SR50. We're also offering free delivery on noon express items with no minimum order value to new customers for their first order.
Was the biggest thrust of sales for noon in the first few weeks of Ramadan be on the grocery side? How much of your grocery sales are locally sourced?
Grocery consumption is a major factor in shopper behavior during Ramadan, and we anticipated a significant spike during this time. Home-grown produce and locally sourced grocery essentials account for a sizable portion of our inventory.
Do you feel local and regional vendors selling locally made stuff now have a decisive price advantage they can offer customers through your portal?
Noon was created to provide local sellers with a local platform and tools for selling online. This is an opportunity for local vendors who don't rely on imports to take advantage of being insulated from external disturbances and offer customers a wider range of options, prices, and service quality.
Is Saudi Arabia the biggest market for you now? What about uptake in Qatar and Kuwait? Egypt?
Saudi Arabia is a very large market for noon. The recent ramp up we have seen in Egypt has also been incredibly exciting. We're looking forward to seeing what 2022 brings.
A new fulfilment center in Saudi Arabia – are you planning more?
We currently operate multiple fulfilment centres across Saudi Arabia, allowing us to deliver products to millions of customers across the country quickly. Our Saudi logistics and fulfilment network has grown to include CFCs (customer fulfilment centres), last-mile hubs, and gateway hubs.
Any plans to offer your vendors supplier credit facilities?
We are committed to meeting the needs of both our customers and sellers. We provide ample incentives for our sellers, and offer tailored support to guide them in the selling process and increase their success.