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As the High Holiday season approaches, department store chains are already feeling the heat in the gift coupon market.

The Blue Square chain expects sales of its Rav-Tav coupons to increase by 7 percent compared to the same period last year, however, the CEO of Clubmarket, Yaakov Ginsburg, is even more buoyant: He foresees sales of Extra-Tav and Extra-Tav 100% soaring by 15-20 percent. As for SuperSol, the chain's VP of marketing, Shlomi Gindi, is far less optimistic. "There will be no growth in sales of the chain's gift tokens [Tav Knia and Tav Zahav] compared to last year. As it appears now, we will not reach last year's sales," he said.

It is common for many private and public sector companies to distribute gift coupons as part of the New Year celebrations. Market analysts estimate that coupon sales this year will be similar to that recorded in 2002, about NIS 1.5 billion. Usually some 40 percent of all coupons are sold prior to the New Year, while 60 percent are sold before the Passover holiday.

Blue Square, aided by its long-standing links with the country's largest workers' committees, traditionally dominates the market with about 40 percent of all coupon sales. Supersol's share is estimated at 35 percent followed by Clubmarket at about 25 percent.