Bridging the Gap Between Ramadan Observers in the UK and British Businesses
The Ramadan 2019 timetable is now available for the observation of Ramadan taking place between Sunday 5th May and Tuesday 4th June and some supermarkets and shops, particularly those in the areas with a high Muslim population, will be beginning to plan how they intend support their local communities. Considering Ramadan is now the third largest holiday celebrated in the UK, following Christmas and Easter respectively, and celebrated by approximately four million people, it remains an almost “silent celebration” taking place privately in the homes of practicing Muslims.
How Does Ramadan Effect Businesses in the UK?
While cafes, coffee shops, eateries and supermarkets may see a drop in Muslim custom during the hours of sun-up, individuals still use these areas to stock up on necessary supplies to support their suhoor and iftar meals. Many families tend to stock up on their favourite foods in addition to experimenting across multiple different cuisines, with numbers as high as 84% of British Muslims trying a new cuisine for iftar during the month of Ramadan. This has seen an increase in spend over the past few years, with the Ramadan economy estimated to be worth more than £200 million in 2018, this is not far off Easter at around £900 million and Christmas, which eclipses both celebrations at an estimated £50billion spent in November and December at the end of 2017.
£200million is no small spend and offers an excellent boost to local economies and charities that families give to during the holy month. Especially during the preparation period towards the end of Ramadan, when everyone is getting ready for Eid and celebrations tend to take place over a two-week period to accommodate different working hours and distances to travel. Muslim charities aren’t the exclusive benefactors at this time and British Muslims were quick to step up and support the victims of both the Manchester Arena terror attacks and the fire at Grenfell Tower, which both happened during Ramadan in 2017.
Could Businesses Be Doing More?
Many British Muslims reported after Ramadan last year that although their local supermarkets had put in some effort to offer some Ramadan based food, the majority had to be brought across multiple locations or even in specialist independent shops. There isn’t much change required by businesses, especially big-name stores like Tesco and Asda, to offer an isle to the celebration, which would prevent consumers having to spend much of their day travelling back and forth to get all the ingredients they need and would certainly do more to encourage more customers through the doors.
In addition, working Muslims can be a disadvantage during the period of Ramadan, especially when working for companies with a broad, diverse workforce who haven’t had much experience with the observation of religious holidays. This is even more relevant during Ramadan, when fasting can affect energy and concentration levels for employees. All businesses could stand to see a flexible working period introduced, not just for their Muslim staff but for the benefit of all their workforce and would see a distinct improvement in staff morale, giving employees the option to work around core hours and returns the feeling of control to an individual’s work/life balance.
This can be extended to normal retail areas through implementation of a later working day, this not only benefits those breaking fast when the sun goes down but would improve the economy and provide for staff working longer or more unsociable hours. This would also see an improvement across working retail staff, as mornings don’t have to be started so early and working families would be given more time to spend with the children in the morning school preparation.
In conclusion, there is certainly room for businesses to expand their offerings to British Muslims, especially to accommodate the increasing numbers of younger Muslims who have reported feeling let down by their local businesses during Ramadan in past years. If you have been disappointed in recent years by your local offerings during Ramadan, why not approach local businesses and help educate them and introduce them to the joys and festivities that Ramadan can bring to families and communities.