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Muslim ‘market’ during Ramadan

In my 25 years in Kuwait I have had many experiences during the month of Ramadan which have indicated how special and different the lunar month is from other times of the year. In my first year the experiences were challenging as my frustrations at coming to grips with the timings of the breaking of the fast and subsequent rush to the shops at the, for me, unnatural hour, of 8:00 pm was difficult. Since then I have grown to appreciate some of the many joys of Ramadan especially when a calm descends over the city when everyone is breaking the fast. The roads are quiet, the mayhem and madness of day to day living is put aside as families and friends enjoy Iftar together and non-fasters like me can enjoy walking the Mishref track and recharging the soul in an atmosphere of serenity.

Working in public relations and marketing I soon learned that capturing a market niche is one sure way to success and the month of Ramadan has not been lost on marketeers. In recent years many of the leading fashion houses have woken up to this truth and are now capitalizing on the approach of Ramadan. For them the time of fasting alternating with festive gatherings in the evenings of family and friends is a chance to tap into a huge market with ever increasing returns. Religion attracts big business, whether it’s Christmas or Ramadan. A quick look at some upmarket websites such as Armani/Dolci and what they are offering as part of their sweet emporias across the Middle East indicates that they are the latest in a long line of companies seeking to capitalize on the advent of Ramadan. It seems that marketeers are waking up to the Ramadan consumer as a global phenomenon and adjusting their campaigns accordingly.

The Managing Director of a leading London store recently remarked that Ramadan has long been every store’s unspoken secret. The Ramadan shopper is now being profiled by clever marketeers ever eager to identify consumers, especially female consumers who have welcomed Ramadan in their most lavish finery. Some leading fashion houses are now introducing online pre-Ramadan fashion shows for customers who expect exclusivity. DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger now offer a special Ramadan collection. According to a study released by the American Muslim Consumer Association about one million live in the US and their spending power is estimated at $100 billion.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that American retailers are recognizing Muslims as a strong economic force with the month of Ramadan being a key period in the year.

Mango has released its third Ramadan collection in the Middle East following the pioneering collection of DKNY in 2014. Zara, Oscar De La Renta and many others have followed suit. Brands are targeting these populations because they have been lured by the $489 billion in spending power across the globe by 2019 as estimated by a study undertaken by Reuters.

Its only in the past couple of years that Ramadan collections are getting international publicity. Having the fashion community recognize the Muslim market as being a market niche with great potential has been a milestone in itself but the hard work to cash in on the projected $489 billion continues.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing. Many companies have not done enough research to see exactly what the Muslim consumer requires in a Ramadan dress. It’s not enough just to modify collections which are high fashion in other parts of the world. Brands that have worked at knowing how sheer the fabric should be, how modest the neckline or the slit in a skirt should be have learned this can be the determining factor if a purchase will be successful. Understanding the evening events and whether formal or semi formal wear is required is another factor to be overcome. Women are looking for sophisticated dresses and elegant separates which portray contemporary stylish designs that are not revealing. And of course, timing must be perfect. The pre-Ramadan shows must be calendared to give a long enough lead in for consumers to view the collection, consider and make up their minds before they decide on that all important purchase. One such store which has shown increasing success is Harvey Nichols which has successfully tested and marketed their Ramadan collection in the Gulf before offering it to consumers in their London store.

So as I approach another Ramadan in Kuwait I am happy that it has once again moved into the academic year and I can enjoy the many blessings it offers such as shopping late at night in an atmosphere of excitement and celebration and checking out those fabulous new Ramadan collections which are a must for the savvy fashionista.

By Patricia Whelan

BAIA Director

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