Ramadan: Shopping time?

Ramadan has become the most promising month for the management of shopping centers and event organizers, since many people go on shopping sprees to buy new outfits and staple foods during the holy month.

It is supposed to be a time when Muslims control their earthly desires and live modest lives. For that, they have to perform fasting from dawn to dusk for the whole month. But here many people find justification to celebrate Ramadan by spending much more than usual.

People, especially housewives, are busy preparing special food for their families for the pre-dawn meals and for breaking the fast.

This does not include the purchase of special clothes for Idul Fitri, locally known as Lebaran, even though the celebration is still weeks away. For many Indonesians, Lebaran is often associated with new and special clothes.

Some shopping centers in town have organized a series of events to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and welcome Idul Fitri as well, catering to the needs of people.

Most of them offer similar programs such as big sales, food bazaars and Islamic performances such as bedug (traditional drum) parades, marawis (percussion groups) and nasyid (religious songs).

North Jakarta’s Kelapa Gading Mall, for instance, is gearing up to pamper potential shoppers with some irresistible offers such as the late night shopping event, which will be held Aug. 27-28.

The management of La Piazza, a posh mall next to Kelapa Gading Mall, will introduce exotic Arabian delicacies at the Arabian Nights Foodfest, combining Arabian delights with Arabian ambiance and performances.

For those who live in Central Jakarta, Grand Indonesia Shopping Town also has some tempting programs, from big sales and fashion shows to traditional dancing and Islamic musical performances, to entertain Jakartans in an event called “Ramadan Rhapsody”, Aug. 13-Sept. 19.

Ciputra Mall in West Jakarta is also preparing a similar event, starting Aug. 20.

“Lebaran is synonymous with shopping, especially the need to hunt for new clothes. We will have a bazaar which sells fashion products and snacks,” Rida Kusrida, the Ciputra Mall spokesperson, told The Jakarta Post.

Fashion booths, she added, will be on the main atrium, while snack stalls can be found in some spots around the shopping center.

Ramadan is also a perfect time for people to organize bazaars and garage sales.     Wenny Yuliasari, 33, from BazaarQita, is busy preparing for the upcoming “Ramadan Big Sale” event, which will take place on Aug. 27-28 in Blok S, South Jakarta.

“Why do we hold this event during Ramadan? It’s about providing things for people during the fasting month, heading to Idul Fitri,” she said.

“People usually shop a lot the whole month, just right after they receive THR [the Idul Fitri annual bonus]. People tend to be more geared towards consumption than in other months,” said Wenny, who has been organizing the event with her best friend since 2006.

There will be 60 booths selling goods such as clothes, shoes, accessories and bags, as well as food stalls.

The special thing about this bazaar is free foods to break the fast for the first 50 people to show up, she said.

“Ramadan is a special moment, so the menu has to be a bit complete and special to maintain the stamina of the whole family.”

“Things sold at the event are cheap, much cheaper than those offered at ITC shopping centers in the city. Besides brand new stuff, you can find second-hand items at the bazaar,” she added.

Wenny said that she also did some shopping during Ramadan, saying that she buys new clothes for her driver and housemaid to make them happy.

“For myself and my three daughters? My husband and I don’t have a tradition of buying new clothes for Idul Fitri. We just don’t want to make it as a habit,” she said.

Dyah Fidha, a Depok resident, said that she usually spent more money during Ramadan to buy staple foods such as coconut oil, sugar, tea, and eggs, and ingredients to make snacks such as kolak and es buah.

“During the fasting month, we tend to consume more sweets and refreshing dishes to boost our energy. So, our expenses for sugar and fruits also increases,” said the woman.

She also takes advantage of shopping centers which offer various promotions. “For my son  I usually buy baju koko [Indonesian Muslim men’s attire]. It’s been a tradition,” she said.

“I myself don’t buy new outfits. I sometimes just look for a new headscarf or sandals.”

If she accidentally passes a Ramadan fair or bazaar, she sometimes will drop by to buy housewares such as tablecloths and cookie jars.

Ayu Wilujeng, a housewife, said that her expenses during Ramadan doubled compared to the rest of the year.

“Why? First, it’s because I need to prepare extra snacks for breaking the fast such as kolak [banana compote], es buah [fruity ice] and kurma [dates]. It’s been a tradition here to have refreshing munchies to break the fast,” she told The Jakarta Post.

“Second, the prices, especially for staple foods, are usually higher during the fasting month. So, I have to spend more money,” she added.

“Ramadan is a special moment, so the menu has to be a bit complete and special to maintain the stamina of the whole family,” she said.

Two weeks before Idul Fitri, Ayu usually will hunt for new clothes in shopping malls. “The clothes are for my son, nieces and nephews. I just want to make them happy. My husband and I are not used to buying new outfits for Lebaran,” she explained.

She is also a bargain hunter when it comes to shopping for clothes. “Almost every department store in town has special promos during the month,” she said.

“Tanah Abang market [Central Jakarta] is also one of the best places to find discounted items, but I’m reluctant to go there because it’s too crowded,” Ayu said, adding that she usually spends around Rp 500,000 (US$55) to buy new clothes.

Ayu said that it was normal if people seemed to be focused on consumption during Ramadan. “In terms of consumerism, I think it’s OK if people to consume during this month as long as they don’t do it all the time,” she said.

“I think Ramadan is a special time, especially for not-so-wealthy people, because this is the time when they receive bonuses and are able to buy things that they want to buy. Rich people can buy stuff anytime they like, but not for middle- or lower-class people.”

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