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

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

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.”


Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
Updated 15 April 2021

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by Houthis toward Saudi Arabia, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.
The attacks targeting Jazan are the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-back Houthi militia. 
Jazan University was one of the targets as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement on the Saudi Press Agency, adding that the actions amount to war crimes.
The attacks originated from Sa’dah governorate in Yemen, Al-Malki added.
The coalition said the attack is a continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians. 
The Houthis, who took over the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, in 2014, have been condemned for their actions against the Kingdom. 
The Saudi government has said the Houthi attacks are not only against the  Kingdom and its economic facilities, but rather the center of the global economy, the security of its exports and its oil supplies, while also affecting maritime navigation.

Saudi Arabia has consistently backed efforts to resolved the war in Yemen peacefully.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman held talks with Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, and reiterated that the Kingdom supports “all efforts to end the conflict, implement a cease-fire, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and reach a political resolution that guarantees peace and prosperity for the brotherly people of Yemen.”
In March, Saudi Arabia announce a peace initiative to help end a war that has ravaged Yemen for the last six years. The initiative, which has received wide support, includes a cease-fire supervised by the UN, the reopening of Sanaa airport, and new talks to reach a political resolution to the conflict. Restrictions on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah would also be eased, allowing access for ships and cargo.
The UN’s chief, Antonio Guterres, backed the deal and urged all sides to take this opportunity to pursue peace and work with his special envoy, Martin Griffiths, on ways to proceed “in good faith and without preconditions.”


Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, said members of the international community with open channels to the Houthis must use their leverage to encourage it to sever ties with Iran and commit to the Saudi-led peace initiative.
“These countries must put pressure on the Houthis to stop their daily crimes and violations against civilians in their areas of control, which are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Al-Eryani told Arab News in an interview last week.
A Yemeni news agency reported last month that the Houthis had “provisionally” accepted the Saudi initiative to end the war in Yemen, but were demanding unchecked flights from Sanaa airport to unlimited destinations before giving the peace plan their final approval.
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Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
  • In addition to providing artificial limbs, the facility will also offer maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services and physiotherapy

LONDON: The Saudi-based King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has officially opened an artificial limbs clinic in the Yemeni city of Aden, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Qasim Buhaibeh, the Yemeni minister of public health and population, thanked KSrelief for its work to help the Yemeni people. He also praised the achievement of establishing the prosthetic limb facility, which he said “will contribute to providing medical services and alleviating the suffering of those who are injured and the victims of mines.”

Saleh Al-Dibani, the director of KSrelief in Aden, said the organization has provided the prosthetic limb center with the resources it needs to help 1,434 beneficiaries, including 300 new prosthetic limbs.

A KSrelief worker is seen with young patients at the new prosthetic limb center in Aden. (SPA)

He added that KSrelief is also providing resources for maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services, physiotherapy, and to hire medical staff in coordination with the Yemeni Ministry of Health.

“The project of equipping and preparing artificial limbs is one of the most important projects funded by KSrelief in the governorates of Aden, Taiz, Seiyun and Marib, with the aim of supporting the Yemeni health sector,” said Al-Dibani.

The center is part of the framework of humanitarian and relief efforts being provided by Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, to the Yemeni people.


Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

RIYADH: The Asbar Center for Studies, Research and Communications announced the launch of the Asbar Observatory on Development, the first of its kind in monitoring and anticipating future development in the Kingdom.
Established in 1994, the Asbar Center is a scientific organization dedicated to conducting studies and research on development and policies.
Dr. Fahad Al-Orabi Al-Harthi, president of the Asbar Center, said the new observatory is one of the center’s initiatives. 
“The idea of launching the observatory comes within the framework of the center’s efforts to keep pace with developments witnessed in various fields in the Kingdom, in order to achieve its ambitious Vision 2030,” he said.
Through the observatory, Al-Harthi noted, the Asbar Center seeks to build a national system that contributes, in cooperation with the responsible authorities, to monitoring development needs and providing information to authorities.
Al-Harthi also said the observatory will assist decision-makers in shaping life in Saudi Arabia and anticipating its future through foresight tools. In preparation for a pioneering developmental journey that supports changes, the observatory will also anticipate future opportunities and challenges by analyzing their effects and developing innovative solutions to them.
“The mechanism of the Asbar Observatory project relies on the work of local and international development indicators,” Al-Harthi said.
“The observatory will focus on monitoring development and issuing reports to the competent authorities on progress, social innovation, sustainable development and social responsibility. It will also issue future forward-looking studies.”
Al-Harthi said he hopes the Asbar Observatory will enhance the Kingdom’s presence in various global fields while maintaining its distinguished international position.


Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king
Updated 15 April 2021

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

RIYADH: King Salman on Thursday appointed Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as adviser to the king, with the rank of minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Prince Mishaal has been governor of Jeddah since 1997 and a member of the Allegiance Council since 2007. 

He is president of the governing council of the assembly and president of the Social Development Forum and chairman of the board of the Society of Majid bin Abdul Aziz for Development and Social Services.


Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan
Updated 15 April 2021

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan
  • Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has warned citizens to be wary and recommends using the proper channels to give to charity

JEDDAH: A surge in beggars has been witnessed across Saudi Arabia, taking advantage of the holy month and the acts of charity obligatory upon Muslims.

The scene is not new to residents of the Kingdom. For years, beggars who have arrived illegally through various means such as smuggling, originally from areas such as Africa, Afghanistan and Yemen — and even local citizens — have roamed the streets asking for money.

Migrant smuggling, the irregular movement of people through international borders, is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities and has been an issue in the Kingdom for years. The situation dramatically worsened after the Houthis, the Iran-backed militia group, gained power in Yemen, and thousands of people have tried to escape into the Kingdom from the improvised nation.

On the rugged mountain terrain of the Saudi-Yemen border, criminals are smuggled into the Kingdom, more often than not finding their way into major cities and using various ploys to grab people’s attention and money. 

The spirit of giving is prevalent during Ramadan, when Muslims undertake acts of kindness. Giving money is the simplest form of charity but many beggars have been found to be part of an organized gang, mobilizing children, infants and old men and women to do their work.

HIGHLIGHT

Illegal immigrants also poses a security challenge. Some illegal immigrants have been implicated in criminal activities such as smuggling weapons and narcotics, and have committed crimes such as theft, espionage or subversive acts that threaten national security. This is a global issue that many countries have been struggling with. 

All-too familiar scenes — of disheveled-looking young men in torn dirty clothes, barefoot children standing under the scorching sun and walking on unbearably hot pavements, babies passed out in their prams with heavily covered women pushing them between cars or idly waiting at traffic stops without concern for the harm exhaust smoke can do to their health — seem to double during Ramadan.

Such sights may grab people’s attention, prompting them to give a few riyals intended to satisfy the beggars and encourage them to get off the streets — only to find them returned to the same spot the next day.

“These scenes are all too familiar,” one resident, Afaf Al-Ghamdi, said. “I pass by the same streets going to and from work, and everyday I see the same woman with different babies just walking between the cars. It’s heartbreaking to see, but we’re heeding the warnings and we need to stop encouraging them. Organized crime is real and it’s no excuse nowadays not to perform an act of charity safely.”

Though the act itself might seem harmless to some, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has warned citizens to be wary and recommends using the proper channels to give to charity, with many applications and platforms now available to do so.

As Saudi Arabia continues to make positive improvements toward its digital transformation goals by increasing the efficiency of e-services, the General Authority for Zakat and Tax’s (GAZT) application, “Zakaty,” had made giving easier and safer. In its fourth year, GAZT has made Zakaty available through a website and a call center. More than SR40 million ($10.6 million) was collected last Ramadan, which social security beneficiaries registered at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development benefited from.

Illegal immigrants also poses a security challenge. Some illegal immigrants have been implicated in criminal activities such as smuggling weapons and narcotics, and have committed crimes such as theft, espionage or subversive acts that threaten national security. This is a global issue that many countries have been struggling with. 

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib said that smuggling was a form of organized crime run by networks that could have grave security, health, economic and social implications for society.

The penalty for smugglers, or those involved in facilitating the illegal entry or movement of illegal migrants, will be a sentence of no less than 15 years in jail, a fine of up to SR1 million ($266,000) and confiscation of vehicles or property intended to transport or house them.