Oday Younis Nassir fills his Carrefour trolley with tomato paste, flour, cake mixes, chips, dates and bottles of olive oil.
“The UAE offers value for money during all sale seasons, but Ramadan in particular, has the best value for money on food, beverages and groceries. Clothes and perfumes are my preferred gift items, so I get them prior to Ramadan to get better deals,” says the 44-year-old Iraqi, who works as an executive director at Dubai-based company called Smart Skills.
The holy month is typically a time when consumers such as Nassir make the trip to the nearest shopping mall to stock up on groceries for their iftar meals and gifts for the Eid festivities.
For the retailers, this period is a peak time in the UAE and wider region. Ensuring the timely delivery of supplies to the shop floor and supermarket shelves makes for an interesting story.
As a connector of businesses and people’s lives, global logistics provider DB Schenker moves Ramadan, transporting goods as diverse as electronics from China and Taiwan, cosmetics from Egypt, furniture and DIY home improvement kits from the US and Europe, high-street fashion wear from France and the UK, and dairy and chocolate from Ireland into the UAE and the wider GCC every year.
In a usual month, DB Schenker moves more than 100,000 tonnes of consumer and retail goods into the UAE. During Ramadan, this can increase by another 30,000 tonnes.
International festivities have an impact on global trade industry and demand planning. In some ways, this adds to the complexity of logistics behind Ramadan, which is often underestimated.
“It becomes very important to manage expectations. That’s why, together with the retailers, we start planning as early as December. Looking at the demand we anticipate the volumes we need to bring in for our consumers, and how they need to be shipped to be available in the market,” says Thomas Ruelke, Chief Commercial Officer, DB Schenker Middle East & Africa.
Art and science
Logistics is the art and science of moving goods to the right place at the right time. In business, it encompasses aspects of the supply chain, involving inventory management and physical transport by all modes.
With 76,000 employees in approximately 2,000 locations worldwide, the global DB Schenker team also manages the logistics for demand that peaks during Ramadan.
"Our warehouses in the UAE store handbags and cosmetics for shopping malls, as well as furniture and the latest fashion,” says Sharon Lobo, Head of Consumer Segment at DB Schenker Middle East & Africa.
“Be it make-up, perfume, skin and hair care products, or vases, candles, pillows and other decorative items – everything is included. For one French luxury brand in particular, we actually offer a 24/6 operations setup, so something that is handed over to us in Paris around 3pm in the afternoon is actually up for sale next day in Dubai at 9am when their local store opens”.
Ramadan provides a boost for UAE retailers, with 40 per cent of consumers believing the holy month is the most lucrative period for them to make purchases.
A YouGov survey in 2018 revealed that while the public seeks promotions across a broad range of categories, many focus on specific areas. While more than half look for deals on groceries and fresh produce, a similar number want deals on clothes while well over a third are keen to find mobile phone bargains.
For a large part of the population, gifting clothes is the norm especially during Eid. Importing the clothes into the UAE in time for Ramadan comes with its own set of challenges, with orders being placed in January itself. For example, during the first quarter, DB Schenker moved almost 1 million units of baby fashion items for a large international retailer prior to the Ramadan sales.
“The goal is to bring those products to the market on time, so our clients can fill their shelves and make them available for the consumers,” says Lobo.
Not only in the Emirate, DB Schenker actively moves Ramadan goods across other countries around the world.
For one customer alone, the firm transports more than 3,000 tonnes of dates in a month from Saudi Arabia to the GCC, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Lebanon and all the way to Asia during seasonal peaks. Another example is snacks that are popular especially during the holy month. In the run-up to Ramadan, the logistics firm moves nearly 3 million packets of crisps throughout many Middle Eastern countries.
The footprint reaches as far as Malaysia, where DB Schenker operates a certified halal logistics facility to ensure the halal status of products that are sensitive to Muslim customers.
Trends have shown that online retail shopping increases during the month of Ramadan. From the newly launched Amazon.ae to furniture store Pan Emirates, e-retailers offer discounts that are just a click away. DB Schenker’s end-to-end logistics and delivery capability allows for timely delivery of such products.
As a global logistics provider, DB Schenker moves Ramadan not just to celebrate the occasion, but to deliver the world’s products to the consumers.