For the first time, a major U.S. retailer is offering a dedicated line of decorations for the holiest month on the Islamic calendar: Ramadan, which culminates in the Eid al-Fitr celebration.
The retailer, Party City, which has about 850 locations, mostly in the United States, was motivated to create the items because customers kept requesting them, Ryan Vero, the company’s president of retail, said this week. “We are always seeking insights from our store teams who are engaging with our customers every day,” said Vero, who called these customers underserved when it comes to party supplies.
Party City’s Ramadan items, which were designed by its internal product innovation team, have been selling well online — many items have sold out — and will be available by Saturday in some stores in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Sugar Land, Texas.
The announcement is welcome news to many Muslims gearing up for the holiday, which begins May 16 and ends at sundown June 14 — the start of the Eid al-Fitr party that goes through June 15.
“I’m really excited about it,” Huda Khwaja, 20, of Atlanta, said of Party City’s effort. “It makes me feel like we’re less of an oddity.”
Khwaja, a recent college graduate, has been decorating for Ramadan her whole life. Her parents wanted the holiday to be meaningful and fun for her and her seven younger siblings, she said. Their decorations were usually homemade and consisted of signs, chain links and streamers all made of paper, as well as twinkle lights, she said.
Party City’s new line includes tableware, banners, decals, gift bags and balloons in purple, blue, green and gold, and embellished with mosques and the star and crescent symbol.
To some degree, Khwaja’s parents were ahead of the curve. Adorning a home for Ramadan and the Eid is not necessarily traditional for Muslims, but it has become increasingly popular.
“I converted to Islam in 2001, and I definitely see a big difference,” said Jittaun Jones, 39, of Elk Grove, California, the mother of two young boys. “In the last 10 years, more and more people with kids find it really important to go all out because Christmas is such a big deal, and holidays are such a big deal.”
Mariam Abdelgawad, 29, who has three young children, agreed that decorating helps Muslim families contend with the hype around the December holidays, and helps children feel connected to their religion and culture while also being American.
During Ramadan, adults, as well as girls and boys who have reached the age of religious observance, abstain from food and drink, including water, during daylight hours and focus on contemplation, devotion and remembrance of God.
The decorations help excite the children who are not yet fasting, said Abdelgawad, who lives in Santa Clara, California. She expands her collection yearly, she said, often buying from sites like Etsy, where hundreds of thousands of crafters sell homemade goods. “I try not to overdo it,” she said, but “it’s so exciting, I want to buy everything.”
The Party City website has recently been shared among different Muslim groups, Abdelgawad said, adding that people often pass around information on how to find new decorations this time of year.
Aside from the Oriental Trading Co., Party City does not have a lot of direct competition in the party-goods market. As for Ramadan decorations, its only major competitors are Etsy and Amazon, which both offer a good variety.
A search of the online stores of Oriental Trading Co. and Target, as well as of the arts-and-crafts companies Hobby Lobby and Michael’s, did not turn up any Ramadan or Eid decorations. Walmart’s online store had a random assortment of tapestries, tablecloths, pillows and ornaments.
Party City, which introduces about 8,000 products and 50 party-goods ensembles each year, is tapping into a lucrative market. There are about 9 million Muslims in North America, according to a 2014 study released by the American Muslim Consumer Consortium. The consortium’s founder put Muslim spending power in the United States at about $100 billion.
“We are the fastest growing religious community in America, and I think that businesses are beginning to realize that there’s a market out there for us,” Jones said.
So far, major companies have had mixed results trying to cater to Muslim consumers. Hallmark continues to offer Eid cards, which it began doing years ago, and companies including Net-a-Porter and Tommy Hilfiger have in recent years offered Ramadan-specific apparel. In February, Macy’s introduced a collection of modest clothing, including hijabs.
Other attempts, though, have turned sour. In 2010, Best Buy used flyers to wish Muslims a “Happy Eid al-Adha,” another Islamic holiday, prompting a backlash from some customers. In 2011, the hardware giant Lowe’s was pressured by a conservative Christian group to pull ads from the TLC show “All-American Muslim,” which it did. That same year, Whole Foods backed away from a Ramadan promotion that included giveaways after receiving complaints.
Party City is not worried. Vero said that regardless of religion or holiday preferences, the company is always looking to support its customers.
Some American Muslims also feel that, with more ugliness directed toward Islam recently, it’s increasingly important to celebrate openly.
“We want our kids to feel attached to Ramadan, and it’s really hard in today’s political climate, where everything about Muslims is kind of questioned,” Jones said. “You want your children to be proud and have these amazing memories. This is a really awesome holiday, too.”