How British Department Stores Appeal to Middle Eastern Shoppers


Chinese consumers avoid high domestic import taxes by doing their designer shopping while traveling across Europe, but Middle Eastern travelers tend to gravitate particularly toward London, often right before and after Ramadan.  British department stores have subsequently adopted a number of practices to appeal to and accommodate this niche audience — and as retail across the board ramps up efforts to keep more shoppers in-store and offline, the industry as a whole could pick up some tips on a tailored approach, from Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Selfridges:

  • Harrods makes special commissions from some of its designers for longer, and longer-sleeved, dresses.  In another nod to exclusivity, they also offer limited edition bags meant to appeal as one-offs available from their store only.
  • In general, current collections and smaller European labels that are unavailable elsewhere (like Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, where most of London’s Middle Eastern shoppers are from), are the most widely sought after.
  • Harvey Nichols offers Arabic-speaking ambassadors.  Other department stores also offer VIP rooms and translators.
  • Moreover, all the department stores have females sales assistants on hand to help Muslim women shoppers.
  • And all the stores’ restaurants offer halal dining options.
  • Selfridges stays open until 10 pm to cater to consumers fasting during Ramadan (the fast can be broken post-sunset).
  • Smoking!  It might be waning in the U.S. but the international crowd hangs on to the habit. Harvey Nichols has a smoking terrace adjacent to one of its restaurants, so shoppers don’t have to leave the store.

At a time when big stores are losing foot traffic to the Web, London’s big name retailers look extra savvy for learning how to accommodate a different niche of shopper.  If the Middle East’s most well-heeled look farther west, to New York, will Bloomie’s and Saks and Bergdorf’s take a cue from their British counterparts?


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