Retail in Ramadan
Most of us can appreciate the fundamentals of supply and demand – until the goods in question are our kitchen staples, that is.
July 15, 2010 3:53 by Katherine Azmeh
When retailers hike prices on necessary goods, taking advantage of consumers in an emergency situation, it is called price gouging. It’s an unethical way to make a quick windfall when buyers are at their most desperate – for example, tripling the price of flashlights, batteries, and generators following a week long power outage.
Taking advantage of consumers on the price of essential goods is nothing new. And while price gouging might be the extreme situation, there are plenty of shades of gray in between. In much colder climes, for example, seasoned residents know the best time to stock up on heating fuel is in the months long before it’s needed. The hotter it is outside, the cheaper the heating fuel. And if you wait until winter to buy, you will certainly wish you had planned better. The underlying premise for the price hike in times of demand brings us back to the fundamentals of Economics 101, with a little bit of ethics thrown in. But when the commodity in demand is a necessity – like food or fuel – the ethics of the situation can push the economics to the side. Supply and demand is easy to fair enough until the goods in question are as basic as sugar, oil, and rice.
In the month of Ramadan, a time of dedicated simplicity and fasting, the issue comes into sharper focus. The Muslim month of fasting is traditionally recognized as a brisk one for retailers, and the prospect of a pre-Ramadan price hike is appealing to many of them. Consumers say they expect price increases during the month, on rising demand for certain commodities. But is it a simple matter of supply and demand – fixed supplies against a backdrop of increased demand – or could it be more?
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