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For the first time in Israeli history, Blue Square Israel has achieved a bigger market share than its arch-rival Supersol, according to the A.C. Nielsen rating company.

Blue Square achieved a market share of 25.3 percent in July relating to the bar-coded products market, which includes 70 percent of consumer items sold, Nielsen found. Supersol's bite was down to 25 percent.

Over time, Supersol still has the bigger market share: 26.1 percent from January to July, versus 25.1 percent for Blue Square. But the trend has been moving in Blue Square's favor recently and the gap narrowed further in June, with Blue Square's share rising to match Supersol's 25.5 percent share.

Blue Square CEO Gil Unger attributed the increase mainly to the company's Shefa Shuk outlets. "We discovered a new world," he says. "The community buying at the chain isn't only ultra-Orthodox looking for kosher lemehadrin (very strictly kosher) food. Shefa Shuk also appeals to families from the general population looking for bargain prices."

Blue Square operates 162 outlets, versus Supersol's 157, but Supersol has more shelf space with 359,000 square meters, against Blue Square's 297,000.

Effie Rosenhause of Supersol commented that the chain has continued to improve by all parameters throughout the last three quarters. "Supersol is the only chain that continues to show improvement in same-store sales and the trend is persisting." That, of course, does not take into account the so-called private chains, such as Tiv Taam, which do not publish their results.

Supersol is Israel's biggest chain from the revenue perspective, racking up sales of NIS 3.07 billion in the first half of 2004.