BRITISH supermarkets are cashing in on Ramadan with sales for the holy month expected to soar to over £120 million, while department stores have added prayer rooms to entice shoppers into stores.
Ramadan, which comes to an end next week with Eid festival celebrations, is set to become the third most important period for retailers in the UK, after Christmas and Easter. The spending power of Muslims is huge during the holy month, when believers refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.
Families stock up on food staples including rice and oil to prepare lavish meals for Iftar – the breaking of the fast at sunset, which begins with eating fresh dates.
Asda brings in new products for Ramadan, and has introduced a pre-pack halal meat range this year which includes cook in a bag chicken, and special offers on red meats.
Helen Yates, customer planner for world foods at Asda, told Eastern Eye: “Our customers told us that quick and easy solutions for feeding the kids at meal times is important to them, so we have products such as halal lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, chicken kievs and nuggets.
“In store, we have many promotions across the different categories which run from around six weeks prior to the start of Ramadan, as customers have told us this is when they start to plan. The full seasonal aisle is also given over to Ramadan in the top 60 stores.”
A spokesperson from Tesco said the supermarket chain was expecting sales to be around £30 million this year. “On items such as chappati flour, rice and oil, we would expect to see an average increase of sales of around 70 per cent around this time of the year,” the spokesperson said.
In order to appeal to Muslims from across the globe, Asda sells specific products aimed at African and Turkish customers. “While many [customers] buy core Asian products, there are some specific products and brands that they want to buy from the West African and Mediterranean ranges,” Yates added.
Morrisons told EE they saw a 100 per cent rise in the sales of dates and had therefore introduced 12 new varieties for Ramadan. Noor Ali, world foods manager at the supermarket chain, said: “Each day’s fast is traditionally broken by eating a date, so we see demand for them sky rocket during Ramadan.”
The four main supermarkets now compete for customers by offering promotions on popular products such as tinned tomatoes and rice. Morrisons has placed a limit on the number of 10kg bags of Amira Banquet rice that a customer can purchase; it is sold at half price to maintain stock levels.
Sainsbury’s has already enjoyed a 23 per cent increase in customers buying Asian products this Ramadan. Hennah Baseer, Sainsbury’s world foods category planner, told EE: “Ramadan is becoming an increasingly important calendar date for us.
This year sales are up on key ingredients that are used to cook meals, including rice; up 111 per cent year on year for spices; and halal meat, which has had a rise of 22.5 per cent this year.”
Major chains are also capitalising on other festivals celebrated by Asians in the UK, among them Diwali. Sainsbury’s sees an increase in dairy products and drinks during the Hindu festival of lights.
The Tesco spokesperson said: “We do things for Diwali and in certain areas where there is demand for that, increasingly so. “We have been pretty established with Ramadan and we have certainly been doing that with other festivals which are important for our communities. It’s important we reflect the communities where our stores our based.”
Muslims also exchange gifts and buy new clothes to mark the end of the fasting period and celebrate Eid. Some department stores, particularly across the capital, experience a healthy uplift in sales just before the festival.
Wealthy holidaymakers from the Middle East flock to London for the Ramadan rush each year which has become a crucial date in the retail calender for luxury brands.
Dave Hobday, UK managing director at Worldpay, a payment processing company, told EE: “Premium retailers work around the clock to ensure their stores are ready and staff trained so they can take advantage of the windfall these shoppers offer. Some even bring in exclusive products just for Eid shoppers such as limited edition handbags or jewellery.
“Stores have added prayer rooms, meaning visitors can stay in store for longer and a ‘handsfree’ service to carry bags out to waiting cars. All of this enhances the shopping experience, attracting higher footfall and in turn, even bigger spending.” Selfridges in London remains open until 10pm during the season.
In the four weeks after Eid, top London department stores see a staggering 558 per cent hike in sales from Saudi Arabian visitors compared to the seasonal average, while tourists from the United Arab Emirates contribute to a 235 per cent sales uplift.
“Retailers know that shoppers from the Middle East might be in the minority compared to those from Europe or the US, but they have a disproportionate amount of spending power. Post Ramadan shoppers are a bonanza that any retailer would be mad to miss out on,” Hobday told EE.