Shopping in Dubai – a lesson in cultural inclusivity and tolerance

Ramadan 2018 will begin in the evening of Tuesday, 15 May and end in the evening of Thursday, 14 June 2018. In this MultiConnexions blog, PR & Social Media Manager Katrina recalls some cultural retail marketing she saw done extremely well in the globally recognised shopping haven – Dubai.

I remember when I first moved to Dubai to live around 10 years ago. It was just before the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan and the weather was steamy and hot. Eager to make a good impression and win some friends in my new home, I realised I needed to do some cramming about this most significant event on the Islamic calendar.

What I could read in books and online told me that my Muslim friends would be refraining from eating and drinking during daylight hours. During the Holy Month, smoking, swearing and losing one’s temper among other vices were also off the table.

And like Christmas in my own country, I found that there was a beautiful sense of peace and happiness during Ramadan. People were very kind to each other, and incredibly generous in inviting me to join them for Iftar – the dusk meal in which the day’s fast is traditionally broken by eating a date.

But one thing that struck me was on my first trip to Spinneys, one of the popular grocery chains in the United Arab Emirates.

Spinneys. Image Source:Dubai Travelator

As well as providing the requisite halal meat for the majority Muslim country’s consumption, Spinney’s also had a private, sectioned-off room – separate to the halal meat area – offering the meat which is forbidden for Muslims, pork.

Although for some people this may seem a very small point, I was touched by the religious tolerance and cultural inclusivity demonstrated by Spinneys in offering me – a non-Muslim – this forbidden meat in this Islamic country.

Indeed, a little knowledge and cultural understanding on the part of Spinney’s marketing went a very long way towards making me – a foreigner – feel a bit more at-home while I was abroad. I was a loyal Spinney’s shopper from that day on.

For many, shopping is the main reason to visit Dubai. It is a popular pastime partly because the shopping is so good and partly because the sweltering weather makes malls a cool place to socialise.

mage Source:Zemsib

Fast-forward to today in my new home – Sydney.

With the number of people of Muslim faith in Australia up from 2.2 per cent in 2011 to 2.6 per cent in the latest 2016 Census (that’s almost half a million), knowledge and cultural understanding of the kind demonstrated by my Muslim friends (and retailers) abroad are more important than ever.

In Australia, there are suburbs like Auburn, Sydney where 43 per cent of the population is Muslim. If that is not a reason for retailers to look at local area marketing and closely examine who your customer base is then I don’t know what is. If you’re a retailer and not looking at the cultural makeup around your locations, you’re really missing out.

Three small tips for tapping into the specific shopping needs of this audience group?

1. With halal food, the feeling is often ‘if in doubt, don’t buy it – go somewhere else’ so it’s important to demarcate products clearly.
2. Muslims also often have larger families and bulk buy, so special offers work well.
3. Many will travel considerable distances for a favourite product or brand, so research is important.

Vimto fruit cordial is a popular, refreshing beverage in many Muslim households.

Image Source: Aswaq Mecca

It makes commercial sense for retailers to engage with multicultural audiences, but it is also important to do so with great sensitivity and the right knowledge.

Ramadan Kareem!

1 thought on “Shopping in Dubai – a lesson in cultural inclusivity and tolerance”

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