‘Forbidden occasions’ a chance to boost sales in Saudi Arabia

These events start with the recent Valentine’s Day this month and end with Mother's Day at the end of March

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Most retail stores, including gold shops, are waiting for what they call “forbidden occasions”, or celebrations that cannot be observed in the Kingdom.

These events start with the recent Valentine’s Day this month and end with Mother's Day at the end of March and are often seen as crucial to helping markets recover from the annual quiet period of sales that starts after the end of Haj.

Some businessmen doubt sales will increase because the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice bans such celebrations and tour the markets to ensure that they are not selling related merchandise, but others see a significant increase in sales that could reach up to 100 percent compared to the previous four months, Al-Madina reported.

Saif Ali, manager of a gold shop in Jeddah, said the forbidden occasions starts on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, and most businessmen see them as an opportunity to increase sales by up to twice as normal.

“They see these occasions as an opportunity to get rid of old stock and sell gifts, especially for newlywed and married couples,” Ali added.

These occasions, he said, are as lucrative as the wedding season because most people are keen on buying gifts during these periods.

Muhammad Al-Ghamdi, supervisor at a gift shop, said these occasions are becoming popular to the level that some companies are specifying budgets for special products related to these celebrations.

He said: "Most companies buy heart-shaped products, for example, in all colors.

“Sales are high because the Saudi consumer are exposed to the massive advertising campaigns on television channels from neighboring countries and the world about these occasions.”

Abdul Ghani Al-Muhanna, head of the gold and jewelry committee at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a gold businessman, said these occasions are an opportunity for social gatherings and for family members to exchange gifts.

“It is an opportunity to kick start the market in retail shops and in gold and diamond markets.

“Such occasions are acceptable and we have to deal with it in a simple way just like we are dealing with marriage and getting out of hospital celebrations.

“I am against calling these occasions holidays because they are not. “They are just happy occasions and a chance to exchange gifts.”

Muhammad Al-Shehri, head of fabric and garments committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said these occasions are not part of Islamic culture.

He also doubted such occasions would have a positive impact on their related markets.

He said: “Big companies in the clothing industry are not relying on these occasions.

“Most shops that take advantage of such celebrations are small shops run by expatriates.

“We never observed big clothing companies focusing on such occasions and selling clothes with heart shapes or which are predominantly red in color.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Tuesday, Feb. 17.