Ramadan 2017: earlier celebrations affect retail industry’s results

28 July 2017 -Ramadan is a key celebration in Muslims’ religious calendar. With Ramadan taking place two weeks earlier than in 2016, how did retailers perform in 2017? 


  • Compared with 2016, earlier Ramadan in 2017 has negative impact on TFS activities for the month of June
  • GCC Globe Shoppers’ TFS transactions number posts -46% decrease in June compared with the year before 
  • Global Blue anticipates high volume of spend from Middle Eastern shoppers for July

As an increasing number of luxury brands debut hijab and abaya collections tailored to Muslim women’s taste, retailers around the world have also had to adapt to Muslims’ changing shopping habits during this period.

Ramadan 2017: Gulf nationalities set the trends

Ramadan 2017 occurred from 27 May until 25 June, two weeks earlier than in 2016. Pre-Ramadan weeks represent strong sales period for Muslim shoppers around the world as they anticipate the celebration by shopping and travelling more prior to the fasting period.

Yet, a much higher basis for comparison in 2016 impacted GCC1 Globe Shoppers’ results as we witnessed Tax Free Spend decline to 20% of the yearly average during Ramadan 2017. 

Ramadan 2017 in Europe

Tax Free performance from GCC Globe Shoppers shows a -46% decrease in the number of transactions compared to the year before. This result accounts for a negative number of SIS2 from GCC shoppers, -30% compared to June 2016.

The United Kingdom, France and Switzerland, all destinations favoured by GCC Globe Shoppers during the festive season, post a significant decline in terms of TFS spend compared to 2016, with -65% in the United Kingdom from Qataris, -67% from Bahrain Globe Shoppers in France and -63% from Saudi Arabians in Switzerland.

Only Turkey posts positive TFS spend results for the period, with an impressive +181% increase from UAE Globe Shoppers. This result can be attributed to a favourable basis for comparison in light of Turkey’s 2016 terrorist attack, which occurred during the same period last year.

With GCC Globe Shoppers representing 11% of total SIS across Europe, these mixed results had a moderate effect on the region’s performance, which still posts a +8% SIS increase, with a +3% uplift in the number of Tax Free Forms issued and +5% increase in average spend per transaction.

London: Ramadan’s crown jewel   

For GCC Globe Shoppers, whose penchant for luxury goods is no secret, London remains the destination of choice to shop the latest fashion, accessory trends and benefit from the city’s renowned level of service.

Almost a year after Brexit, the city still benefits from a favourable exchange rate and posts a +12%3 increase in terms of Middle Eastern arrivals compared to the previous year.

Middle Eastern shoppers spent on average £1,10154 per transaction, outperforming other international Globe Shoppers in London.

Post-Ramadan outlook

The retail and travel industry should remain cautious in light of most GCC countries’ current political or economic unrest. Yet, historically, post-Ramadan Tax Free Shopping activities pick-up after the fasting season. This year again the number of Tax Free Shopping transactions in Europe for the two weeks following the religious celebration shows clear signs of recovery, with a +21% increase from Saudi Arabians and +15% for UAE shoppers compared to the same period in 2016.

1 Gulf Cooperation Council

2 Sales-in-Store

3 ForwardKeys, 2017

4 DFNI, Tran. D, “UK tax-free retail sector receives pre-Ramadan boost”, 05/07/17