Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is expected to start on 26th May this year. During Ramadan, able-bodied Muslims of a certain age are expected not to eat, drink, or smoke during daylight hours. Ramadan starts on the sighting of a new moon so cannot be accurately predicted; the fast exists as a reminder of those less fortunate.
Generally people stay up late after breaking their fast (at around 7pm) and wake up in the early morning hours so they can eat before daybreak. The evening meal is called Iftar, the early morning meal called Suhoor. This results in shorter sleeping hours which can cause people to become more lethargic, especially in the afternoons.
While it’s easy to imagine the month of Ramadan as a freeze on most business transactions, the holy month actually sees increased activity in some sectors in the UAE. The demand for consumer goods, especially food, has paradoxically been shown to boom throughout the month. Food consumption during Ramadan surges as friends and families come together in the evenings after many hours of fasting.
In the UAE, some restaurants remain open throughout the day, though their windows are curtained to show respect to those fasting.
The commercial aspect of Ramadan could be compared to the Christmas season in western countries where food commerce and food advertising reaches an annual peak. In fact, research has shown that the fast food segment grows rapidly during the month, as families who have less time move from traditional fare to quick meal options.
Cafes generally do roaring business during Ramadan. Going to cafes after iftar and spending time watching television, having tea or coffee, perhaps smoking shisha, and chatting with friends has become a Ramadan tradition.
Convenience stores, supermarkets, and hypermarkets stay open during the day and many extend hours to midnight or later. Ramadan specific promotions and offers are common. UAE grocery sales are at their highest during Ramadan, with all food retailers stocking up on products at least a month in advance to meet demand.
So, contrary to what many assume, food retailers typically expect a rise in sales during Ramadan (10-15%). Consumer spending, particularly on food and beverage, tends to go up a few days before the start of the Holy Month until after the Eid celebrations have concluded (the three day festival right after Ramadan).
Many consumers prefer to buy in bulk during Ramadan, rather than to make multiple short trips to the mall. This means the big weekend shop becomes a daily shop and the chance of impulse purchases increases. Noting the UAE’s demand for British confectionery and several other food & beverage products, Ramadan offers a lot to an internationally minded exporter. It may be too late to get your products stocked for Ramadan this year, but Ramadan 2018 is just a year away.
- IV: Corporate Income Tax in the UAE (10 things to know before setting up a business in the UAE)
- Strengthening Economic Ties: UAE & UK Forge Robust Trade & Foreign Direct Investment Relationship
- I: Demystifying the UAE Trade Licence: What Companies Need to Know (10 things to know before setting up a business in the UAE)
- II: Emiratisation drive – acting locally, thinking globally (10 things to know before setting up a business in the UAE)
- III: An Overview of the UAE Visa Types (10 things to know before setting up a business in the UAE)