The UK car industry

Will the UK car industry learn a lesson from the US?

Almost every year in the summer, I expect to read articles in the London press stories about affluent Arabs driving premium and exclusive super cars such as the Bugati Veyron priced at £1.6 million.
This year the weeks leading up to the Muslim month of fasting, which begins on July 20, have seen millionaires and billionaires both living here or visiting the UK showing off their very expensive and limited editions cars, if you live in the right part of town, the sight of a is not that uncommon

Most of the up market designer shops, quality jewelery shops, restaurants and hotels are seeing their revenues going up, affluent Arab visitors want the best and are prepared to pay for it.

Shops in Bond Street, West End designer outlets, restaurants such as Le Caprice, and hotels such as The Sheraton Park Tower have been instructing their (Arabic speaking) staff to roll out the red carpet.

The figures speak for themselves: some five star hotels are reporting 80 per cent Middle Eastern occupancy.

As for the stores, the average British shopper will spend £120 during a trip to the West End and an American £550. Compare that with the average Saudi spend of £1,900. What’s more, in the month before Ramadan, the amount spent by Middle Eastern visitors will be double that in other months.

The past year the numbers are well up on before. Saudi visitors are up 22 per cent year on year, while visitors from the UAE have risen to almost 120,000 up nearly ten per cent.

Arab shoppers are very savvy shoppers and they want the latest, most fashionable, limited edition products.’ One example of targeting by the brands is to be found in the use of Oud, a distinctive fragrance, in scents and beauty products.
‘Oud is a particularly popular scent for Middle Eastern shoppers, so a limited edition of, say, an Oud scented fragrance, whether it’s by Armani, Jo Malone or Tom Ford, is very popular.

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest draws for the visitors is Harrods. Again, limited edition items are popular: Louis Vuitton handbags; Diamond jewelery watches from Cartier; leather goods; silk scarves, and perfumes from Hermès.

Quality car manufacturers facing austere times have started targeting affluent multicultural consumers, as is the case with Ford Lincoln, which started targeting the Chinese community as they are wealthy and have money to spend.

The question facing UK and European manufacturers is why not target affluent ethnic consumers in the UK who are running their own businesses and generating a lot of wealth and would like to show off their wealth by buying the very best.

Saad Saraf

Mediareach Star