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The major supermarket chains have failed to woo back customers from the private, low-priced competitors in the first half of the year.

The large chains - Clubmarket, Blue Square and Supersol - have continued to lose customers to the likes of Hatzi Hinam, Haviv, Tiv Taam, Super Victory and Rami Levy. The private chains meanwhile have continued to increase their market share at the expense of the big chains.

According to a survey for Haaretz by A. C. Nielsen, the three big chains sold 68.3 percent of consumer goods in the first half of this year, down 2.7 percent from the same period last year.

The private chains' share of sales rose 12.5 percent to 31.7 percent of total sales for the same periods.

The private chains have continued to open more branches this year, while the large chains' efforts to attract customers through advertising and special sales seem to have failed.

The Nielsen surveys, done quarterly, are based on actual data produced by the sector. The company collects data from the cash registers and bar code readers in supermarkets and pharmacies covering 70 percent of the market. The consumer goods market - food, drinks, personal grooming and household items - is estimated at NIS 33.3 billion a year in sales.

This market grew 1.7 percent in the first half of 2004, according to the Nielsen data.

The biggest drop in sales for the large supermarkets was in the food area, while the growth of their competitors was also strong in cosmetics, toiletries and personal hygiene items - a growth of 9.9 percent.