Customers, retailers in Saudi Arabia prepare for joy of Ramadan shopping

Hypermarkets and shopping malls accommodate the shopping frenzy with creative marketing schemes and displays to catch consumers’ attention before the month even begins. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 08 April 2021

Customers, retailers in Saudi Arabia prepare for joy of Ramadan shopping

  • Shopping process becomes more intense for consumers unlike any other month of the year

JEDDAH: One of the clearest signs marking the arrival of Ramadan is the shopping behavior of Saudi residents, with people flocking to supermarkets and malls to prepare their households for the upcoming holy month.

Last year’s buying sprees were different during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic lockdown, where consumers resorted to shopping online for groceries, clothes, and necessities. 

Due to the restrictions, sales were hit hard. This year, shopping malls and hypermarkets in the Kingdom have started to recover from the economic recession.

It has become a habit to prepare for Ramadan with a feeling of newness: Households go on a cleaning frenzy, decorate the house, reorganize furniture, take away some goods to give to the poor, and of course, buy new items.

For consumers in the Kingdom, the shopping process becomes more intense unlike any other month of the year. People head to grocery stores to shop for products, sweets, new kitchen utensils, furniture, toys, and of course holy month decorations to fully enjoy the Ramadan vibe.

Hypermarkets and shopping malls accommodate the shopping frenzy with creative marketing schemes and displays to catch consumers’ attention before the month even begins.

Sellers from different markets — ranging from hypermarkets to bakeries and general goods — have provided an overview of buying behavior before and during Ramadan, with some consumer experts saying that purchasing decisions have become more prepared after the pandemic.

Raghdah Sadiq, marketing supervisor at a Saudi eCommerce platform HNAK.com, told Arab News that “by limiting the customer to only order online, the customer missed the actual experience of going to the mall and interacting with other people to buy or exchange.

“In 2021, consumers have already built a strong habit of ordering online, but for some items such as fashion, jewelry, and groceries, people would prefer to go to the stores and experience shopping offline.”

Panda Hypermarket, a Saudi Arabian retailing company and one of the Kingdom’s largest grocery store chains, buckles up for Ramadan over a month ahead of its arrival. 

“We prepare everything very early to beat the crowd. We provide all Ramadan food supplies a month and a half in advance until the end of Ramadan,” said Hussein Al-Harbi, the on-duty manager of Hyper Panda in Jeddah’s Al-Ruhaily neighborhood. “We also add more employees before and during Ramadan to accommodate the growing crowd of shoppers.”

Al-Harbi added that while some consumers are used to moderately buying the exact amount of groceries they need, many tend to go overboard with food purchases. During the lockdown, however, people had to consider what they actually needed, which made them develop smart shopping skills and an understanding of their required consumption.

Ahmad Al-Muqbil, managing director of Creative Team, a marketing company based in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that “companies tend to come up with promotions to their products and more special offers to gain consumer loyalty.”

He added: “Despite the pandemic and the setback in 2020, everyone continued to shop through apps and websites. However, the proportion of shopping was the lowest ever over recent years.”

Essentials, desires, and advertisements

Ramadan products are promoted not only via shopping malls, hypermarkets, and ads, but also with the help of social media influencers in the Arab world.

“Building that sense of urgency completes other companies’ agendas, for example your dinner table will not be ready unless you have a certain product,” said Sadiq, adding: “Consumers have the need of not missing out on the occasion as Ramadan is mainly about gatherings in the family home.”

Mansour Turki, an employee at a local pastry shop, told Arab News that Eastern pastries and deserts such as baklava, kunafa, and basbosa are high season picks during Ramadan and customers flock to their stores on weekends. Though the lockdown did affect his sales, it is still expected to be business as usual for this coming Ramadan.

Neama Fadhel, a housewife and a mother of five children, said that she likes to plan for her Ramadan shopping for kitchen products, accessories, and clothes, as the experience brings her joy.

Fadhel also takes happiness from buying new items for her household, especially her kitchen, as it “gives me a boost for the daily cooking routine in the holy month that differs from other normal days of the year.”

She added: “This year has made a big difference in my preparation for Ramadan as there will be an opportunity for us to enjoy breakfast with family and friends.”

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Film AlUla to boost Saudi film industry

Updated 10 April 2021

Film AlUla to boost Saudi film industry

  • New film commission will shine a light on Saudi Arabia by attracting international producers

DUBAI: A new regional film commission is launching in Saudi Arabia, Film AlUla, which is being set up by the Royal Commission for AlUla in the northwest region of the country.

Located 1,100 kilometers from Riyadh, AlUla is a place of natural beauty and heritage. It is home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, which is a 52-hectare ancient city.

AlUla is also home to other historical and archaeological sites, including an old town surrounded by an ancient oasis and the Lihyan Kingdom, which is considered one of the most developed cities of the first millennium B.C. in the Arabian Peninsula.

Extreme E, the off-road electric race championship, will hold this year’s inaugural race in AlUla.

Arab News spoke to Stephen Strachan, film commissioner at Film Alula, to learn more.

Give us a little background on AlUla’s new film commission, Film AlUla. 

Film AlUla is a new regional film office, established in 2020 and launched officially earlier this year by the Royal Commission for AlUla at the Berlin International Film Festival. It was met with a positive reaction from both the film industry and international media.

Film AlUla has been tasked with the mission of promoting the county of AlUla as a filming destination and attracting local, regional and international productions to shoot films, TV series, commercials and documentary projects. The Film AlUla team is made up of local and international industry professionals who offer a range of services, expertise and resources to support production projects in AlUla. 

A view of an old town in ALUla surrounded by an ancient oasis. (Supplied)

What is Film AlUla’s objective? 

We have a range of objectives. Firstly, we want to attract production companies to shoot film projects in AlUla so as to showcase this county of outstanding natural beauty and cultural significance, which has, until recently, remained undiscovered by filmmakers and the world at large.  

This in turn will encourage tourists from around the world to visit AlUla, and to discover the region and the rest of the country, in support of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision. Developing our film industry also puts us in a position to shine a spotlight on the wealth of Saudi talent and to provide a platform to champion and support emerging and established creatives here.  

We aim to build a film hub centered in AlUla that generates local and regional employment and educational opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career in the film industry.  

What is the investment in the film and production industry in the city?

AlUla has been identified as one of Saudi Arabia’s most promising destinations. We are confident that the stunning landscapes, wide range of diverse locations and millennia-old archaeological sites will attract film productions and make AlUla a major filming destination. Preserving our heritage sites and landscapes remains a priority in AlUla and the sustainable building of our local screen industries.

A robust financial strategy is in place to make the AlUla region the Kingdom’s cultural capital. Archaeological, cultural and touristic complex plans are underway so we can support film productions with world-class infrastructure and a range of accommodation options, from luxury and unique hotels to eco-friendly, desert canyon resorts, designed to raise the profile of AlUla on the international stage.

What are the incentives being offered to producers?

Production companies are encouraged to get in touch with the Film AlUla team directly to discuss our financial incentives. 

Production companies can also benefit from a range of incentives such as free bespoke production support; location scouting; expert knowledge of filming in AlUla and the rest of Saudi Arabia; assistance in sourcing equipment and professional crew locally and regionally; and, of course, year-round sunshine.

With a temperate climate nine months of the year, AlUla presents filmmakers with an uninterrupted extended period of time during which to shoot their productions. 

What are the procedures and guidelines for local and foreign companies to shoot their productions in AlUla?

We are very excited to open AlUla’s doors to film production and share with the world the wealth of beauty, history, and diversity on display here. We welcome all types of production, and as a member of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), we follow best practices as laid out by the AFCI.  

We have a very effective regulatory system in place that is simple and straightforward to ensure production and crew have all the necessary permits in place. Hosted on our website is a Film Production and Location guide that provides a comprehensive overview of all the benefits of choosing AlUla as your production destination. Of course, preserving and protecting our landscape and heritage remain paramount. And, for anyone interested in filming in AlUla, we suggest you reach out to us so we can support you during every step of the process and ensure a successful and enjoyable filming experience.

For more information, please visit filming.experiencealula.com.

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AlUla will make for an extraordinary and thrilling backdrop for the event. And with Extreme E set to be aired around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to capture the attention of global audiences, enabling them to see the majestic, cinematic landscapes and breathtaking natural wonders of the region for themselves.


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Prince Waleed has previously served as CEO for a group of private business initiatives in the Kingdom, vice president of the People and Shared Services department at McDonald’s, Saudi Arabia, and vice president of marketing and business development at NAFA Enterprises, a Saudi holding company.
Prince Waleed is also a member of several business groups, including the Restaurant and Cafes Association (Qoot), the Grocery Store Association (Mo’an), and the Fashion, Jewelry and Beauty Association (ZY).
He sits on the supervisory committee of the Trade Franchise Center at the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority and is on the board of directors at both Alfa Co. for Operation Services and Tamkeen Human Resources. Additionally, he is a member of the advisory committee for investment in the municipal sector and a member of the commercial committee in the Riyadh Chamber.
Prince Waleed holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing, graduating with honors from the University of Tampa in Florida, and a master’s degree in accounting, graduating with honors from King Saud University, Riyadh. He also holds certificates in advanced leadership, strategic management, project management, and human resource management programs.


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Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah prepares for Ramadan amid pandemic

Updated 09 April 2021

Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah prepares for Ramadan amid pandemic

  • Three million bottles of Zamzam water will be distributed to worshipers and visitors during Ramadan
  • Each worshipper will be individually presented with dates and water for Iftar

MADINAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Prophet’s Mosque is intensifying efforts to prepare the mosque ahead of the holy month of Ramadan in line with COVID-19 precautionary measures.
Only people who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine or have recovered from the virus or have had one shot of a vaccine more than 14 days prior to visiting the mosque may visit or pray in the Rawdah, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The Rawdah lies between the Sacred Chamber (known as the Prophet’s house), and the Prophet’s Minbar (pulpit).
Each person’s vaccination status will need to be registered on Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 app, Tawakkalna.
Three million bottles of Zamzam water will be distributed to worshipers and visitors during Ramadan which amounts to 100,000 bottles of water per day, the presidency said.
Each worshipper will be individually presented with dates and water for Iftar and social distancing is to be observed at all times.
Arranging and distributing sahoor meals in the mosque’s courtyards is prohibited, the presidency said.
Itikaf (staying in a mosque for a certain number of days whilst devoting oneself to worship) will be suspended for the second year running due to the pandemic.
Worshippers are also required to use the national parking app “Mawqif” to facilitate their exit from the mosque.
Ramadan 2021 is due to start on either Monday or Tuesday in the Kingdom.