UK retailers boost efforts to serve Muslim shoppers

Teens with colorful shopping bags
Teens with colorful shopping bags

According to a recent article by Abu Dhabi-based news organization The National, British retailers are beginning to cater to a new market segment: Muslim women. With Muslims making up nearly five per cent of the UK’s population, this growing—and under-served—minority is a lucrative one when it comes to fashion.

Earlier this year, Marks & Spencer launched the “burkini” in its flagship London store, while British retailer House of Fraser now sells “sporty hijabs” for Muslim women to wear whilst exercising. Moreover, designer brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY have released so-called “modest wear” collections.

Shelina Janmohamed, vice-president of Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding agency, notes that the way these British businesses approach this market segment is imperative in pleasing them. “Brands need to make sure that they hit the right note and that it feels authentic,” she says. “It’s not enough to put a halal stamp on something and paint it dark green.”

Janmohamed says that young Muslim customers—specifically, those aged 15 to 35—are increasingly sophisticated, health conscious and international in their outlook. Ogilvy calls them “Muslim Futurists,” also known as Generation M or GenM. Janmohamed, who is writing a book on the topic, sees this influential group as forerunners in developing and adopting consumer trends.

“They have grown up after 9/11 and in the age of the internet and the war on terror,” she says. “They experience the scrutiny of Muslims, but are also proud of their faith and want to wear it as a badge of honour. They have strong values and want to communicate them and seek brands that reflect those values.”

According to industry research, the Muslim lifestyle market is worth USD $2.6 trillion. Muslim spending globally on fashion and cosmetics is estimated to be worth USD $464 billion and USD $73 billion, respectively, by 2019. Additionally, Muslim customers currently account for 11 per cent of all money spent on clothes globally.

As this consumer sector continues to grow, consider adjusting your marketing strategies to attract the Muslim consumer. For instance, you could offer holiday deals or sales on Eid. Simply put, ignoring this market is simply not an option in today’s retail environment.