Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Faced with soaring visitor numbers, hypermarkets in the this western city in Saudi Arabia have put in place crowd control measures to prevent a stampede, as more than 70 thousand visit one shop in a single day.
Iyad Humsi, marketing director of one the city’s largest stores, said, “We welcome an estimated 50 thousand shoppers every day, from 10 am until 4 am. On our opening day, as twenty thousand visitors went through our doors simultaneously, we were forced to adopt a number of measures similar to those adopted during the hajj (Annual pilgrimage) and organize the entry and exit of shoppers using turnstiles. Under the new rules, a thousand shoppers entered the store every 15 minutes to avoid any injuries.”
Large superstores were jam-packed throughout the week as shoppers flocked to profit form the sales. According to Adel Salim, director of an advertising agency, “these price reductions are part of a strategy to entice as many shoppers as possible and to offer goods at low prices. This is to be expected if we consider the fierce competition between all the hypermarkets.”
This flurry of activity coincided with the start of Ramadan, a period not usually associated with shopping. This appetite for buying indicated sociologist Mohammad al Saidi, “has no explanation. People are happy about the arrival of Ramadan and are expressing their feelings, either by shopping before the month started, or throughout Ramadan.” He added, “Every one of us should stop and consider what they genuinely need and only buy essentials.”
At a time when hypermarkets are engaged in a price war with many offering large discounts, some shoppers have warned of the dangers of being tricked into spending more money without realizing it. Walid al Abdali, a superstore customer, said, “I came here with my family to tock up on food stuff for the Holy month. I was excited at first when I heard of the price reductions on food products but soon realized that while some prices are lowered, other times are marked up!”
Al Homsi denied these accusations and pointed out that “the opposite was true. Price reductions across the board on a range of products are real. It is aimed at luring customers without there being increases to any product. Shoppers can confirm this by consulting their receipts.”
In the city of Jeddah alone, 200 commercial centers offer a range of products for the city’s 3 million inhabitants.