As wealthy Middle Eastern tourists flock to the UK’s shopping districts, Ramadan has become an important occasion for some British retailers.
The month-long period, which this year began on Saturday, involves most adult Muslims fasting during daylight hours. They also give up bad habits and many focus on prayer and reading the Qur’an.
The period of Ramadan itself certainly may not sound as though it lends itself to retail opportunities, but the weeks before often lead to a frenzy of spending as Muslim shoppers prepare for the month.
The period of self-control also ends with a celebratory feast, Eid-ul-Fitr, when Muslims break their period of fasting.
Global Blue, which tracks international spending in the UK, says UK stores will have seen an uplift in sales to Middle Eastern tourists of around 28% in the month ahead of Ramadan.
Sales rose 28% in 2013 and retailers are expected to see a similar increase this year. Kuwaitis led the way last year – their spending was up 63%. Shoppers from Qatar were the highest average spenders, parting with £1,340 per transaction.
Retailers are making increasing efforts to tap into this, especially in the luxury sector.
Middle Eastern shoppers arean important group of shoppers at department stores such as Harrods, making it crucial to acknowledge the festival. Notebook brand Smythson, fashion designer Temperley and The Langham Hotel all held events or offered special products to welcome Middle Eastern shoppers.
Global Blue says: “The lead-up to Ramadan is traditionally a key holiday period for luxury retailers and hotels as tourists from the Middle East come to the UK for their annual spending spree escaping the soaring temperatures back home.”
There are other aspects to the festival as well. British Muslims across the country celebrate the beginning and end of Ramadan in different ways, and David Oliver, a partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, says retailers including the grocers now need to make sure their local ranges suit their shoppers.
“There’s an increasingly diverse ethnic mix in the UK and retailers are needing to respond to that. A lot of that is geographically specific and they need to tailor ranges to local communities around Ramadan and be aware of different groups of people.”