For retailers, the Holy Month of Ramadan is a peak time for demand in the UAE and wider region and ensuring the timely delivery of supplies to the shop floor and supermarket shelves requires specialised logistics partners.
Global logistics provider DB Schenker transports goods as diverse as electronics from China and Taiwan, cosmetics from Egypt, furniture and DIY home improvement kits from the US and Europe, high-street fashion wear from France and the UK, and dairy and chocolate from Ireland into the UAE and the wider GCC every year.
In a usual month, DB Schenker moves more than 100,000 tonnes of consumer and retail goods into the UAE. During Ramadan, this can increase to 130,000 tonnes.
“It becomes very important to manage expectations. That’s why, together with the retailers, we start planning as early as December. Looking at the demand we anticipate the volumes we need to bring in for our consumers, and how they need to be shipped to be available in the market,” says Thomas Ruelke, Chief Commercial Officer, DB Schenker Middle East & Africa, speaking to Gulf News.
With 76,000 employees in approximately 2,000 locations worldwide, DB Schenker calls upon its global network to support the logistics for demand that peaks during Ramadan.
For one customer alone, the firm transports more than 3,000 tonnes of dates in a month from Saudi Arabia to the GCC, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Lebanon and all the way to Asia during seasonal peaks. Another example is snacks that are popular especially during the holy month. In the run-up to Ramadan, the logistics firm moves nearly 3 million packets of crisps throughout many Middle Eastern countries.
The footprint reaches as far as Malaysia, where DB Schenker operates a certified halal logistics facility to ensure the halal status of products that are important to Muslim customers.
"Our warehouses in the UAE store handbags and cosmetics for shopping malls, as well as furniture and the latest fashion,” says Sharon Lobo, head of consumer segment at DB Schenker Middle East & Africa.
“Be it make-up, perfume, skin and hair care products, or vases, candles, pillows and other decorative items – everything is included. For one French luxury brand in particular, we actually offer a 24/6 operations setup, so something that is handed over to us in Paris around 3pm in the afternoon is actually up for sale next day in Dubai at 9am when their local store opens.”
Ramadan provides a boost for UAE retailers, with 40 per cent of consumers believing the holy month is the most lucrative period for them to make purchases.
A YouGov survey in 2018 revealed that while the public seeks promotions across a broad range of categories, many focus on specific areas.
While more than half look for deals on groceries and fresh produce, a similar number want deals on clothes while well over a third are keen to find mobile phone bargains.
For a large part of the population, gifting clothes is the norm especially during Eid.
Importing the clothes into the UAE in time for Ramadan comes with its own set of challenges, with orders being placed by retailers in January.
During the first quarter of 2019, DB Schenker moved almost 1 million units of baby fashion items for a large international retailer prior to the Ramadan sales.
“The goal is to bring those products to the market on time, so our clients can fill their shelves and make them available for the consumers,” says Lobo.
Trends have also shown that online retail shopping increases during the month of Ramadan.
From the newly launched Amazon.ae to furniture store Pan Emirates, online retailers offer discounts that DB Schenker enables through its end-to-end logistics and delivery capability.