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.”


Saudi minister meets UK special envoy for Gulf region

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir receives the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir receives the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister. (SPA)
Updated 9 min 17 sec ago

Saudi minister meets UK special envoy for Gulf region

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir receives the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir met with the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister, in Riyadh on Sunday.
During the meeting, both sides reviewed the historical relations between their two countries and ways to develop them, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
The also discussed regional and international issues of common interest, the ministry added.


Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran

Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran
Updated 18 April 2021

Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran

Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran
  • Unnamed sources said the first round of talks took place in Baghdad on April 9

DUBAI: A senior Saudi official has denied direct talks have been held with Iran, four years after the two countries cut off diplomatic ties, contradicting a Financial Times report claiming discussions were ongoing between the two major regional players.

The Financial Times report, citing unnamed sources said the first round of talks took place in Baghdad on April 9, which included discussions on attacks against Saudi Arabia by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

The report said the talks were being facilitated by Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed in Riyadh last month.

Interestingly, not only did a Saudi source deny the story, but neither the Iranian and Iraqi governments provided the FT with a comment.

The report comes as major countries – China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany – engaged with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal have agreed to accelerate work on issues, including which sanctions on Tehran that the US would lift.

The nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and then-president Donald Trump reimposed sanctions against Tehran.

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Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province
Saudi police arrested seven people for violating isolation and quarantine instructions. (SPA)
Updated 18 April 2021

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province
  • Health Ministry reports 948 new cases, 775 recoveries, 9 deaths

JEDDAH: Eastern Province police on Saturday arrested seven people for violating isolation and quarantine instructions, after they were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

Regional police spokesman Lt. Col. Mohammed bin Shar Al-Shehri said they had been caught in Dammam, Abqaiq, Al-Ahsa and Alkhobar and that all preliminary legal procedures had been taken against them for their cases to be referred to Public Prosecution.
People who violate quarantine procedures in Saudi Arabia are fined up to SR200,000 ($53,333), jailed for up to two years or both.
If the violation is repeated, the penalty imposed from the previous incident is doubled.
COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in Saudi Arabia, with 948 new infections reported on Saturday to bring the total to 404,054.
The country has 9,449 active cases and 1,018 of them are in critical condition.

FASTFACT

People who violate quarantine procedures in Saudi Arabia are fined up to SR200,000 ($53,333), jailed for up to two years or both. If the violation is repeated, the penalty imposed from the previous incident is doubled.

Riyadh reported the highest number of cases with 419, followed by Makkah with 210 and the Eastern Province with 133. Three regions reported cases in the single digits: Najran with nine, Baha with eight and Jouf with seven cases.
There were 775 new recoveries, taking this total to 387,795, and a further nine deaths due to COVID-19 complications. The death toll is 6,810.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 6.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. Approximately 20 percent of the Kingdom’s population has now received at least one jab.
There were 51,126 PCR tests carried out in the past 24 hours, raising the total number conducted in the Kingdom to more than 16.12 million.


Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah
Visitors were allowed to enter the chamber in groups. All carpets were disinfected after every group. (SPA)
Updated 18 April 2021

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah
  • More than 23,000 liters of eco-friendly disinfectants have been used for sanitizing carpets at the Prophet’s Mosque and the Bab Al-Salam corridor over the past few months
  • The channel reported that every carpet was fitted with an electronic chip containing data

JEDDAH: Dozens of the world’s finest carpets cover the floor of Rawdah Al-Sharifah (the Prophet’s Chamber) at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, as part of the Saudi government’s care for the Two Holy Mosques.
There are 50 carpets in the chamber and all are crafted from top-quality materials and woven to the highest standards.
Bandar Al-Husseini is head of the carpet department at the Services Affairs Administration of the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque. He said that the carpets had scheduled sweeping and cleaning programs that were carried out on a daily basis.
“In case a carpet is damaged it is immediately removed and replaced with another carpet,” he said. “The carpets are also subject to disinfection and sanitization processes around the clock.”
He told the Al-Ekhbariya channel that visitors were allowed to enter the chamber in groups, adding that all carpets were disinfected and sanitized after every group.


The channel reported that every carpet was fitted with an electronic chip containing data.

HIGHLIGHT

There are 50 carpets in the chamber and all are crafted from top-quality materials and woven to the highest standards.

“These chips can give information about a certain carpet since it was made and information about the cleansing history of the carpet and its future cleaning schedule,” Al-Ekhbariya reported.
More than 23,000 liters of eco-friendly disinfectants have been used for sanitizing carpets at the Prophet’s Mosque and the Bab Al-Salam corridor over the past few months.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, this step is part of precautionary measures taken to ensure the safety of worshippers and visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.
It also said that fragrances were used more than 7,743 times to perfume the mosque during the same period.

Mosque committees have been changing 450 carpets, and replacing the ones used in the Prophet’s Chamber every 10 days.

The mosque has also been applying preventive measures by distancing people, using marks on the carpets to avoid congestion.


Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of Saudi Arabia’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly. (SPA)
Updated 18 April 2021

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
  • Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands

JEDDAH: Charity platform Ehsan has received SR260 million (($69.3 million) in donations in the first 24 hours of its launch.

King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, philanthropists and companies are among those supporting Saudi Arabia’s latest national charity campaign.
Among the largest donations received are: SR40 million from Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi; SR25 million from the late Sheikh Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Rajhi’s charities Nama and Ataa; SR15 million from Saudi Aramco; SR10 million from Saudi Telecom Co.; SR7 million from Al-Rajhi Bank, and SR5 million each from Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Saudi National Bank.
The donations, which continue to be made, will benefit hundreds of thousands of people.
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of the Kingdom’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly, helping dialysis patients, and housing orphans.
Each cause has a set limit and users can select which area to donate to and follow the progress of their contributions.
Ehsan has also integrated other charities’ services into its systems: Furijat, an Interior Ministry platform to help prisoners convicted of financial crimes, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.
It also allows users to pay Zakat, a form of almsgiving treated as a religious obligation or tax that covers immediate needs such as food, water, shelter and medicine for those in need.

FASTFACTS

Among the largest donations received are:

SR40m Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi

SR25m Nama and Ataa charities

SR15m Saudi Aramco

SR10m Saudi Telecom Co.

Ehsan CEO Abdulaziz Al-Hammadi told the Al-Ekhbariya news channel that the campaign’s initial results had been exceptional, demonstrating the extent of giving from members of the community as well as their social solidarity.
“More than 2 million visited the site in the first four hours of the launch of the website, with more than SR70 million donated by private citizens alone so far,” said Al-Hammadi. “Through the platform, more than 500,000 people have promptly benefitted from the donations and more than 300 causes have reached their goals.”
Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands.
Jameel G., a 67-year-old retired businessman, has traveled to a number of East Asian countries during the past four decades and made strong bonds and connections in a number of Muslim provinces and regions.
He said that, through this network, acquaintances would ask for help to build water wells or mosques in poor communities.
Over time, and amid less frequent traveling, he observed that construction prices were increasing and so were the funding demands. Also, the final results of the projects were not what were initially agreed on.
“Though most of my contacts are good and trustworthy people, it’s the third parties that I found to be making these demands and something was off,” he told Arab News. “The moment I found (out) that the money I was sending was swindled was when two mosques were being built at the same time and the pictures that I received were one of the same, same surroundings, same white-washed exterior and details. This incident happened 10 years ago and that was the last time I did any kind of philanthropic work.
“As I’m not very tech-savvy, I’ve requested the help of my daughter to show me how I can use the Ehsan platform to donate and I’ve also encouraged many of those I know who would like to donate money to go through the system. Too many Saudis have lost money with the aim for it to go to a good cause. It isn’t right. It’s not the Muslim way. Ehsan relieves us from that burden.”
Ehsan was launched on Friday by the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA).
The platform aims to promote the values of charitable work in Saudi society by encouraging donations and developing the nonprofit sector, increasing its efficiency and reliability, and contributing to enhancing the reliability and transparency of charitable and development activities.

SDAIA president, Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, said Saudi Arabia had been a pioneer in the charity field since the nation was founded by King Abdul Aziz.

“The Ehsan platform was established to help donations reach their beneficiaries easily, conveniently and promptly,” he added. “It is considered the latest advanced technological initiative, with the highest professional standards that supports and organizes charitable work in the Kingdom.”