Cho­co­latiers hit the sweet spot in run-up to Eid

The National - News - - NEWS EMIRATES - GIL­LIAN DUN­CAN

Ev­ery year in the last three days of Ra­madan, all em­ploy­ees of Patchi’s UAE head­quar­ters – with­out ex­cep­tion – switch off the Dubai of­fice’s lights at 3pm and head di­rectly to the brand’s re­tail out­lets.

They stay there un­til the doors close, serv­ing cus­tomers along­side the sales staff, in a rou­tine that has played out since the brand opened its first shop here more than 30 years ago.

“It’s part of our cul­ture and it has al­ways been like that. In the UAE we strongly pro­mote it,” said Aline Ashkar­ian, coun­try gen­eral man­ager for Patchi.

And it in­cludes ev­ery­one who works at the HQ – in­clud­ing the chief ex­ec­u­tive, who is based in Le­banon, but vis­its the UAE ev­ery month for a week at a time.

“We have a very funny story ac­tu­ally,” Ms Ashkar­ian said.

“Once we were in Dubai Mall and all the staff were busy and a client bought a big tray, so there was no one to de­liver it to the car. So the chief ex­ec­u­tive went and de­liv­ered the tray to the car for the cus­tomer. So the cus­tomer thought it was one of the of­fice work­ers [and gave him money.]”

The an­nual rou­tine is partly to sup­port its staff through the Ra­madan and Eid rush – the holy month is with­out ques­tion the lux­ury cho­co­late brand’s busiest time of year – and partly tra­di­tion.

The com­pany launches a spe­cial Ra­madan col­lec­tion of choco­lates with dried fruit and nuts, which it sells in its shops in the first 15 to 20 days of the holy month. It is fol­lowed by a se­cond col­lec­tion in the days im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing Eid, when sales can rise by as much as 70 per cent.

In the UAE, peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally give two types of bis­cuit

Caho Cho­co­latier, an artisan cho­co­late brand that launched in De­cem­ber, had not been ex­pect­ing such a rush

called kaak and maamoul – small cakes made from pis­ta­chios and honey or filled with sweet date paste, both dusted in ic­ing sugar – to cel­e­brate Eid, but choco­lates are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar.

“Ra­madan is the high­est sea­son we have in terms of sales and work,” Ms Ashkar­ian said.

“It’s part of the cul­ture that the [se­cond] day of Eid you need to go and visit your rel­a­tives and close fam­ily and con­grat­u­late them and take a nice tray of Patchi choco­lates with you.”

Patchi may be one of the big­gest cho­co­late com­pa­nies in the in­dus­try, but smaller brands have also ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar jump in busi­ness in the run-up to Eid.

Caho Cho­co­latier, an artisan cho­co­late brand that launched in De­cem­ber, had not been ex­pect­ing such a big rush. The com­pany has ex­pe­ri­enced a 70 per cent jump in or­ders dur­ing Ra­madan.

“We weren’t ex­pect­ing that at all. If we had fore­seen that we would have at least in­creased our staff. It was our first Ra­madan. We knew we would take a share of the mar­ket but we didn’t ex­pect that much,” said Dana Ashkar, Caho’s founder.

“We are short on a de­liv­ery driver, I am do­ing some of the de­liv­er­ies and I am seven months preg­nant.”

The com­pany has had a min­i­mum of about 50 or­ders a day on­line this week and about the same num­ber in-store.

Cor­po­rate sales are also strong, a trend that Patchi has also ex­pe­ri­enced.

“It’s a very strong cul­ture now. Cor­po­rates con­trib­ute about 30 per cent of our sales,” Ms Ashkar­ian said.

“Most com­pa­nies here give gifts twice a year. Once in Ra­madan and the other at the end of the year. They are di­vided be­tween Na­tional Day and Christ­mas, de­pend­ing on who you are gift­ing and the oc­ca­sion.”

Chris Whi­teoak / The Na­tional

Dana Ashkar, founder of Caho Cho­co­latier, did not ex­pect a 70 per cent jump in or­ders for Ra­madan

An­tonie Robert­son / The Na­tional

All Patchi’s em­ploy­ees help out in re­tail stores for Eid, says Aline Ashkar­ian, its UAE gen­eral man­ager

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