30 Jul 2014

Are Retailers Ready for the Post-Ramadan Rush?

Middle Eastern shoppers are used to forking out on the luxuries in life. But at this time of year many have been fasting for a month, going without food or drink between sunrise and sunset, and denying themselves even the most basic indulgences.

With the end of Ramadan comes the start of Eid Al Fitr – a celebration of the religious holiday and a return to normal habits – and thousands of visitors from the region are therefore expected to flock to the shops to splash the cash and escape the scorching heat in August at home.

The big question is – are retailers ready to cope with this rush?

Tourists visiting the UK from the Middle East typically spent £152.40 per transaction in August last year, according to card processing firm Worldpay, so it’s clear to see that Eid Al Fitr is good for business.

Holidaymakers from Qatar topped the list, parting with an average of £288.17 on each trip to the till, followed by visitors from Saudi Arabia (£199.87), Bahrain (£189.41) and United Arab Emirates (£188.29).

Tourists from Europe, on the other hand, who accounted for the majority of visitors to the UK during the month, spent an average of just £49 per transaction, while those from the United States spent £65.41.

Visitors from the Middle East are expected to increase their spending in the UK by as much as 25% this August – so retailers need to make sure they are ready or risk missing out on large sums of money.

Website localisation

Retailers can make sure they are ready to take advantage of the Ramadan rush is by translating their websites into Arabic.

Shoppers are more likely to remain on a website for longer periods of time and spend larger amounts of their money if it is translated into their native language, so it is something that both large and small businesses should seriously consider.

Vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, style and level of speech need to be spot on to make sure the language used reflects the target audience’s culture and society. If not, it could prove to be a waste of time or worse still, be offensive or cause embarrassment.

But website translation doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process. In fact, companies can actually benefit from just a few pages and products being translated that are likely to appeal to their target market.

Hire Arabic speaking staff

Hiring staff who can speak Arabic is another way of capitalising on the Ramadan rush.

This can also be more cost effective than website translation, especially for smaller businesses on tighter budgets.

Retailers with employees who are able to communicate in Arabic have a massive advantage over their competitors on Eid Al Fitr. Even if they can only say a few words in the language, it’s better than nothing.

Owners could even take it upon themselves to teach existing members of staff a little bit of Arabic, just so they know enough to meet and greet customers and help them find what they want during their visit.

Here are some words and phrases that could be useful.

  • ahlan (hello)
  • marHaban (greetings)
  • ahlan wa sahlan (welcome)
  • hal lii ’an ’usaaxidak? (can I help you?)
  • maadha turiid? (what would you like?)
  • ma’a as-salaama (goodbye)
  • ila-liqaa’ (until we meet again)

Beware of local formalities

Retailers must keep in mind that because of the conservative nature in many Arabic-speaking countries it is considered rude for men and women to greet each other in public, so there should be a sufficient number of male and female employees on duty.

When meeting someone for the first time or greeting someone in a formal situation, it is common for members of the same sex to exchange a handshake. Always shake with the right hand, however, as the left hand is considered unclean.

There are also a number of Arabic greetings that have a specific traditional response.

  • As-salaam ‘alaykum (peace be upon you) – Wa ‘alaykum salaam (upon you be peace)
  • SabaaH al-khayr (good morning) – SabaaH an-nuur (morning of light)
  • Masaa’ al-khayr (good evening) – Masaa’ an-nuur (evening of light)

Retailers should avoid selling alcohol or pork in the sections of their stores where they expect to receive Muslim shoppers – both of which Muslims are forbidden to consume under dietary laws outlined in the Qur’an – and anything else that is prohibited (haram). It is also a good idea to double-check what it permitted (halal).

It’s a family affair

Eid Al Fitr is a big family event, so retailers should try to cater for both adults and children.

It’s often compared to Christmas. Get-togethers are common, while gift-giving has become a popular trend.

Eid money – known to many as Eidee – is handed out to every child of every household as part of the celebration. The youngsters and teenagers spend this cash on various activities and impulse purchases.

Brand new outfits and accessories are a necessity for the whole family, while knick knacks to decorate the house and trinket gifts to give to relatives are among the most common buys ahead of Eid Al Fitr.

Retailers should therefore make sure they go the whole nine yards when catering to Middle Eastern shoppers.

Giving them the option to pay by card in their own currency is a sure-fire way of attracting custom during the celebration.


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