How Ramadan impacts retail demand & what to do

Logistics and Supply Chain News

The holy month of Ramadan, which will be observed by nearly 1.9 billion Muslims across the globe from 10th March through to 9th April this year, traditionally marks a time for fasting, prayer and reflection.

In the midst of this all-important month on the Islamic calendar, which leads to Eid al Fitr, retailers and e-commerce brands which engage in cross-border sales experience a major hike in demand as Muslim populations spend more time online and purchase gifts, clothing, and other essentials for celebrations. For global logistics specialists this means Ramadan equally acts as one of the industry’s busiest and most active periods of the year.

Throughout the Islamic holy month, shorter working hours and lesser business activity in Muslim countries comes at a time where an appetite for online shopping increases, resulting in a greater pressure on a retailers’ ability to keep goods flowing seamlessly.

With customs brokerages, shipping companies, and freight forwarders also working on reduced operating times in countries that observe Ramadan when demand for international shipping is higher than usual, the need for a global logistics provider that has the network, infrastructure and personnel to ensure their clients are able to meet demand during Ramadan is ever-growing. 

Furthermore, higher volumes and reduced working hours of businesses in Muslim countries not only can result in potential delays, but restricted linehaul capacity with cargo space often also comes at a premium during Ramadan, with notable mention to the cost and availability of air freight over this period. 

With Ramadan already worth billions in revenue per year for retailers across the globe, the rise of online shopping has accelerated spending habits – with consumer shopping during the holy month expected to increase this year despite growing economic uncertainty and inflation. 

Speaking on some of the challenges Aramex UK has contended with as Ramadan approaches, with the holy month now only days away,  Umar Butt, Regional CEO of Aramex UK & Europe commented: “While it may not be a mainstream seasonal peak for retail and online shopping, Ramadan is fast becoming one of the busiest periods in the retail calendar as Muslim consumers look swap regular working hours with time spent online and in shopping malls. 

“However, as lucrative as the holy month can be for the industry, Ramadan also presents a unique challenge comparative to other spikes in the retail calendar on the basis that brands and global logistics providers have to contend reduced working hours alongside high volumes. Therefore, a significant amount of planning has to go into the shipping process prior to Ramadan as if brands leave it too late, they’re exposing themselves to delays, surcharges, lack of inventory and higher shipping costs – all of which leads to lost revenue. 

“Fundamentally, retail brands need to prepare for Ramadan as they would Christmas or Black Friday – with a strategy in place – and this is what we’ve done to help ensure our clients’ operations run as smoothly as possible during this especially hectic month.”

Umar Butt continued: “Shipping before time is crucial to prevent any possibilities of running into roadblocks throughout Ramadan and Eid. 

“Freight rates, especially for air cargo, will likely be higher due to increased demand and limited capacity, reduced working hours means less personnel available at ports or customs offices in countries which observe Ramadan, and business closures during the three days of Eid Al Fitr for those which celebrate the holiday are just a handful of the considerations brands will need to factor into their shipping strategy into Muslim countries to ensure their goods arrive on time, as there will inevitably be sizeable disruption to the shipping process once fasting begins.

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