Ramadan 2022: deals turn UAE residents into value seekers

People may have to look harder for offers during the holy month this year as global supply issues squeeze inventory and margins, experts say

People shopping during the Dubai Summer Surprises at Dubai Mall on Wednesday, July 11, 2010 in Dubai United Arab Emirates. Photo: Charles Crowell for The National (Do not use before Ramadan 2012. For a Business story) 

Photos for several stories planned in Biz over Ramadan 2012.
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Ramadan is a period for reflection, kindness and family — and in recent years, the holy month has also proven a fertile time for shoppers seeking savings.

Price drops can happen across numerous items during Ramadan, with stores offering everything from cut-price clothing to discounted dishwashers.

E-commerce giant Amazon has already run its pre-Ramadan seasonal sale but many physical shops appear slower revealing their plans this year.

However, one UAE shopping deals pundit thinks people aspiring for larger bargains may have tougher searches this year as global supply issues squeeze inventory and margins.

Popular Facebook community page Shop Well For Less regularly reveals wallet-friendly UAE offers and while co-founder Debbie Steedman acknowledges past wins for value seekers, she believes Ramadan 2022 may not yield significant savings.

“Traditionally, Ramadan was always a great time to avail big discounts in all sectors,” she says. “Post 2019, I have seen a decline in deals … the main supermarkets offer the same discounts year on year in popular foods/drinks consumed during Ramadan.”

The UAE economy is recovering well since Covid-19 pandemic restrictions peaked in 2020.

Yet global supply constraints, compounded by surging demand, have hit many territories, hiking prices for items such as vehicles and trimming margins for retailers already plugging historic revenue gaps.

Ms Steedman says she doesn’t believe UAE residents will see any “significant deals or discounts” due to increased freight charges — meaning a harder hunt for Ramadan offers — but Shop Well For Less members will remain proactive sharing their findings.

“People used to wait until Ramadan, but the feedback I am getting is that people just aren’t shopping for big ticket items,” she says.

However, research by Redseer Consulting last month found that 60 per cent of online shoppers are planning to increase spending across all sectors this Ramadan.

It is essential for retailers to understand that consumers “don’t just spend more during Ramadan, they spend differently”, Richard Nicoll, chief strategy and capability officer of commerce-dedicated creative agency Liquid Retail, says.

“The holy month brings with it flexible working hours and the chance to get together with friends and family, leaving consumers with increased time and the need to shop,” he says.

“According to a recent survey by YouGov, 53 per cent of shoppers said they spend more, 40 per cent search for offers and 49 per cent prefer discounts during Ramadan.”

Some offers are emerging, including for services or smaller items, if not major physical goods.

Sensasia Spa is applying up to 35 per cent savings for two treatments during Ramadan. Photo: Sensasia

Many retail chains, including supermarkets and online brands, have traditionally made the most campaign noise, but Ramadan is also when smaller names can leverage special offer sensitivity to tempt new customers or reward loyal ones.

These include Citron, a home-grown brand for practical products for children, offering 20 per cent off its popular Dino and Unicorn water bottles, plus special Eid gift baskets for boys and girls in two age ranges.

Citron is specifically creating consumer offers on the pillars of gratitude and family, founder Sara Chemmaa says.

“We know how much kids and mums love these [bottle] products,” the former investment banker adds.

“These bottles are perfect as a gift during the holy month and kids can control their hydration levels during non-fasting hours and keep it discreet.”

Offering “meaningful deals or discounts” that meet consumer needs with an understanding of the observance of Ramadan traditions and pillars create a benefit for the consumer, and gains brand and business goodwill, according to Ms Chemmaa.

During Ramadan, Al-Futtaim Malls is emphasising F&B experiences and more value-added promotions, such as cashback deals at Dubai’s Festival Plaza. Photo: Al-Futtaim Malls

If improved sleep is an aspiration, King Koil is offering a 40 per cent discount on beds, mattresses and accessories, along with free premium pillows with each mattress purchased at its 13 UAE stores.

Serta, a US mattress brand manufacturing in Dubai with a showroom in Dubai Mall, has a similar deal.

Al-Futtaim ACE is running in-store and online offers on its Ramadan products range, from themed lighting, decor and gifts to majlis and outdoor furniture sets.

Branches are hosting a Ramadan souq showcasing goods and will channel special prices through in-store and online activations, masterclasses and interactive pop-ups.

“Perfect for late suhoor nights, ACE is hosting Ramadan deals, midnight offers and more on its website along with exclusive offers through the Blue Rewards loyalty programme,” a representative says.

Home-grown UAE wall art expert Drawdeck, meanwhile, is celebrating Ramadan with 25 per cent off all art prints across its website until April 14.

“People tend to spend more time at home and with family during Ramadan, so this is a perfect opportunity to help elevate your space … a great, affordable way to add final touches to make your house a home,” Alex Norström Dunn, Drawdeck’s managing partner, says.

UAE meal subscription company PrepHero has priced its Ramadan meal plan at Dh2,222 (plus VAT) this month, representing a 29 per cent reduction. Photo: PrepHero

Meanwhile, UAE meal subscription company PrepHero has priced its Ramadan meal plan at Dh2,222 (plus VAT) this month, representing a 29 per cent reduction.

Curated to keep traditional ways in mind alongside nutritional goals, the plan is managed through the healthy food tech company’s app.

Kcal, another UAE meal plans provider, is offering a discount of 20 per cent during the holy month.

Also in the wellness arena, Sensasia Spas is offering up to 35 per cent savings for two treatments during Ramadan.

Its Cleanse & Repolish 60-minute session costs Dh325, down from Dh525 previously, while the upgraded version, which adds a 45-minute warm shea butter massage, now costs Dh620, instead of Dh825.

Sensasia has spas in Dubai at Emirates Golf Club and The Village, Jumeirah, plus an outlet at Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates.

Celebrity retail expert Kate Hardcastle, recently in Dubai to host sessions at The Retail Summit for C-level executives, acknowledges a recent change in consumer and sales habits.

Celebrity retail expert Kate Hardcastle says there has been a recent change in consumer and sales habits. Photo: Kate Hardcastle

“There has certainly been a shift in the traditional sales calendar where fashion, white goods and, indeed, big-ticket items like cars and furniture would see a focus for ‘sales’ around holidays such as Ramadan and Eid and moved to a more fluid buying pattern,” Ms Hardcastle says.

“This is due in part to the psychology of how we shop and much of that is driven by emotion and communications we engage with.”

Traditionally, retailers were reliant on TV, radio and newspaper advertising “stimulating the desire to buy”, focused around new product launches and sale periods stimulated to clear stock, Ms Hardcastle says.

“With the rise of social media, many of us are receiving messaging from brands and via influencers and affiliates on an hour-by-hour basis,” she says.

“We have seen a growth in consumers who have a 'right here, right now’ mentality using credit options to fulfil wants and needs instantaneously. There is less of a save-to-buy mentality for many, which means customers are susceptible to the idea of buying something without it being a ‘sale’ period.

“The caveat is that these consumers also want to feel they are getting a deal all year round, which means discount codes and added value are always on the consumer’s mind.”

That mindset has prompted the growth of UAE platforms such as CouponCodesME, which links browsers to potential money-off codes for categories ranging from fashion to electronics, food and home essentials, when spending with various partners.

While big discounts and promotion of sale periods will always evoke certain consumers into reaction, it is not as predictable as it once was
Kate Hardcastle, celebrity retail expert

It recently offered up to 80 per cent discounts on Ramadan deals and codes for household names such as Gap, H&M, Level Shoes, supermarket chain Carrefour, plus online retail platforms Namshi and noon.

During Ramadan, Al-Futtaim Malls is emphasising F&B experiences and more value-added promotions, such as cashback deals at Dubai’s Festival Plaza, says Genevieve Colaco, regional general manager of marketing and customer experience.

“This Ramadan, we’ve observed the retail market spring up with a lot more offers and deals for mall-goers to choose from, making this season more valuable and enjoyable for our customers,” she says.

But, more generally, Ms Hardcastle highlights product supply constraints, which can impact retail margins.

“While big discounts and promotion of sale periods will always evoke certain consumers into reaction, it is not as predictable as it once was,” she says.

“Global supply chains have felt pressure and pain points from many areas for years, and the impact is that consumers have felt the shift when it comes to prices.”

This includes food items hit by weather-affected crops, timber shortages and rising fuel costs squeezing margins on everything from production through to transport.

Research across the region indicates consumers are aware of supply chain limitations, some admitting for the first time they have considered product origins and processes involved, Ms Hardcastle says.

“While there isn’t an end in sight for many on rising costs and disruptions … it is the number one priority for businesses to ensure they can continue to sell with success at a price customers want to pay,” she adds.

Adding to her message about a major product bargains drought, Ms Steedman of Shop Well For Less also urges caution over sales for items not necessarily required.

“I won’t pressure buy because it’s on sale,” Ms Steedman says. “If you don’t need it, don’t buy it … keep your money in the bank, not in your cupboards.”

Updated: April 01, 2022, 5:00 AM