LONDON: The four-day Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha begins in the UK on Friday, yet some Muslim retailers and marketers are surprised big retailers haven’t seized the opportunity in the way they do for Christmas and other events in the retail calendar.

Eid al-Adha is the second annual Eid festival – the other being Eid al-Fitr – and it marks the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Many of the UK’s estimated 2.7m Muslims observe the holiday with the purchase of new clothes, family meals and the exchange of gifts, but a Financial Times investigation has found that shopping options tend to be confined to small traders in predominately Muslim neighbourhoods.

“The two Eids are like Christmas. Have I seen multinational retailers getting into this? Actually no,” said Bilal Karim, the manager of Doli, a clothes shop in the East End of London.

“Sometimes you see a bit of Indian embroidery on a shirt in Next but no one is really going after our market,” he added.

Shelina Janmohamed, VP of Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding consultancy, agreed that retailers and marketers don’t appear to recognise the opportunities and suggested they may be influenced by how the Muslim community is sometimes portrayed in the media.

“There is such a thing as the Muslim consumer. There is still a lack of realisation about this opportunity,” she said. “[But] when you are in a climate where the pictures and imagery you see in the media about the Muslim community are very particular, it may not occur to you, as a marketer, to do a big campaign.”

There is much at stake because the Muslim Council of Britain, a body that represents more than 500 mosques, charities and other organisations, has estimated that the Muslim retail market in the UK is worth £20.5bn a year.

“In terms of gifts and clothing there is also a huge market here,” said Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation charity. “I do not see advertising around the festivities that says ‘Muslims, come through the door’.”

However, some retail chains are getting involved and have observed positive results. For example, Hotel Chocolat, the high-end confectioner, is showcasing a range of products aimed at people celebrating Eid in 40 of its shops.

According to Chief Executive Angus Thirlwell, Hotel Chocolat’s Muslim customers have “loved how we are participating in this event”.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff