A quirky new Ramadan night market opened at the weekend in Dubai as retailers across the country develop innovative ways to entice shoppers to buy gifts in the run up to Eid Al Fitr.
The Ramadan Night Market in the Dubai World Trade Centre welcomed 8,500 customers to its 100 stalls after forecasting 2,000 visitors each night for its 10-day shopping festival.
"There was a big percentage of people there that were buying gifts for Eid," said Sunil Jaiswal, the chief executive of Sumansa Exhibitions, the company running the night market.
"But people were also out for a bargain and to find different things and to spend money."
According to executives polled by The National, most retailers and malls predict sales growth this Ramadan compared with last year as consumer confidence is high in the UAE.
But analysts also said retailers and malls were having to do more to attract customers during Ramadan and in the run up to Eid because the usual mall haunts and the constant advertising during the Holy Month can become tiresome for shoppers.
"One pitfall is Ramadan fatigue: consumers are heavily bombarded with ads and offers related to the Holy Month so the advertising space becomes really crowded and it can be harder to get [your] voice heard," said Cedric Bra, a retail analyst at Euromonitor International.
"Ramadan shopping can get stressful and frustrating, especially this year in the thick of summer, so improving the customer service in store will probably have the most impact on clients and can be leveraged even after Eid as a unique selling point."
Shopping for gifts online during Ramadan is also becoming more popular as awareness grows about website retailers and delivery and payment options improve.
JadoPado.com, Aido.com, Alshop.com and Souq.com have all reported big increases in sales so far this Ramadan.
Aido has enjoyed sales growth of 300 per cent over last Ramadan and JadoPado said it had sold 16 times as much this Ramadan than last year, although the website was only five months old at the start of the Holy Month last year.
"From the numbers we're experiencing thus far, yes there definitely are more people shopping online this Ramadan," said Omar Kassim, the chief executive of JadoPado. "We've experienced higher traffic due to an increased awareness around JadoPado as well as a general shift towards e-commerce as a viable channel within the UAE as well as the region. Having said that, mall traffic continues to peak during the evening as people head out after iftar both to eat and shop."
Competition is also fierce among malls at this time as they aim to offer entertainment options in the evenings during Ramadan.
"We started our Eid in-mall promotions, events and entertainment activities during the second week of Ramadan, which is when we think people have adjusted and are getting ready to venture into Eid shopping and Eid celebrations and hence it will have a positive outcome on retail sales," said Mirla El Masri Heisser, the communications manager for Mercato and Town Centre Jumeirah.
Neelesh Bhatnagar, the director at the Oasis Centre, said the activities he had promoted in the mall, such as an iftar tent and free henna sessions, had converted into sales for retailers. "Most retailers have promotions and discounts and several of them are also in the midst of new season launches."
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