Gulf retailers relish Ramadan boom

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The holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, is boom time for Gulf retailers, with shops enjoying high demand from rich and poor alike.

“Every year, we see a surge in spending before the start of... Ramadan,” with “promotions on food items in the big supermarkets and hypermarkets” across the United Arab Emirates, said Sana Toukan, research manager at Euromonitor International.

In Saudi Arabia, demand for food items rises 20 - 25 percent during the holy month, Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Ramadan is also a great boom for some companies specializing in niche products.

Vimto, a fruit-based cordial drink invented by the English more than 100 years ago, has long been a popular beverage for breaking the fast in the Gulf.

More than half of its annual sales happens during Ramadan, the Aujan Coca-Cola Beverages Company, the licensed manufacturer of Vimto in the Middle East, told Al Arabiya in an email.

About 17 million bottles are sold annually in Saudi Arabia, second only to the United Kingdom.

However, with demand soaring during Ramadan, governments are forced to put a cap on food prices.

The UAE has reached an agreement with more than 20 outlets to discount the prices of over 200 commodities by 30 percent.

Saudi Arabia and the Consumer Protection Association have joined forces to monitor food prices to protect consumers from hikes.

“Some consumers are ahead of the game and have taken power into their own hands with a plan to use social media to name and shame retailers who jack up their prices to an unacceptable level,” Euromonitor International said in a report.

Muslims mark the end of the holy month by celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the feast of breaking the fast.

Consumers, particularly the wealthy, gift their loved ones luxury goods to celebrate the occasion.

Dubai represents about 30 percent of the regional market for luxury goods purchases, and 60 percent of the UAE’s luxury goods sector, according to a study by Bain & Company.

The world’s biggest shopping outlet, Dubai Mall, accounts for about half of all luxury goods purchases in the emirate.

Wealthy individuals who have fled crisis-hit Arab states such as Syria and Egypt have bolstered the luxury retail market, especially in the UAE, said Richard Adams, director and senior consultant at Acuity Middle East.

The “rising number of high-income Arab and Western expatriates coming to the UAE, both as tourists and residents in the wake of the political unrest in other countries in the region, is all likely to push sales higher,” said Toukan.

To reap the benefits of this time of high demand, malls in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar open for longer hours.

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