JEDDAH: IRFAN MOHAMMED
Published — Saturday 22 December 2012
Last update 21 December 2012 11:57 pm
Saudi Arabia is a desert country with usually high temperatures. Yet, winter season here also has a serious impact on the residents’ lifestyle. In some parts of the Kingdom, the cold is a piercing chill felt all the way to the bones.
Winter here varies from one area to another. In Jeddah, day temperatures average 25 degrees Celsius, whereas in Riyadh, the temperature drops to 15 degrees. In the central and northern parts of the country, temperatures drop below zero and snow and sleet sometimes occur in the elevated regions in the southwest.
This year’s winter season, however, is all set to give more chill to the residents in the Kingdom, because the prices of winter wear have shot up 50 percent. An economical jacket for children last year was sold for around SR 50. It is now being sold at SR 90 or more in Jeddah. A sweater for adults sold at SR 180 last year is now selling for SR 250 or more. In the countryside, such as in Taif and Abha, prices have increased by up to 30 percent.
Children, who have to leave their homes early in the morning to go to school, constitute a large segment of winter wear users. This is not surprising, as Saudi Arabia has a very young population. More than 41 percent of the population is under 14 years old, while another 18 percent is aged between 15 and 24 years, making the youth a strong and influential consumer group.
However, despite the 40-50 percent increase in prices of all kinds of garments, including winter wear, this year people are more concerned about quality rather than price.
Roughly speaking, the market is segmented between upper and lower levels; the former prefers to wear wool and leather wear from Europe, whereas the not-so-affluent class, which has a larger share, likes to buy fur from China and other Asian countries.
Many Saudi citizens, especially adults, prefer long coats known as bishta, mishla or farwa, which usually have a high price. Good quality wool wear from Europe now costs not less than SR 2,500 and may go up to SR 6,000, whereas Asian wear costs between SR 1,000 and SR 1,500.
Quality wool wear is generally worn in Taif and Al-Baha in the western region and Abha in the south as well as in almost all northern cities. Many citizens living in the northern part of the country prefer wool wear imported from Syria, which is made of a variety of sheep. However, unrest in Syria has resulted in a shortage this year.
Imports in the garment market of Saudi Arabia account for approximately SR 8 billion and come mainly from Asia and Europe. The share of school uniforms and winter clothes amounts to approximately SR 1.5 billion.