It's common knowledge: The supermarket chains that target the ultra-Orthodox have the lowest prices. But sometimes, it seems, common knowledge is flat-out wrong.
In March 2008, the Nielsen market research firm reported that prices at the grocery chains that cater to Haredim were a whopping 20% below those targeting the general population in Israel. A breakdown by category revealed price differences ranging from 16% to 43%.
TheMarker wanted to see if the 2008 findings still held. To that end, we went to one branch each of two discount sub-chains of the big grocery retailers that are aimed at the general population, two that target the Haredi community and a branch of the Rami Levy discount chain, all in the Tel Aviv area.
In Tel Aviv we visited Super-Sol Deal as well as Mega Bool, part of the Blue Square chain. In Bnei Brak we checked out Shefa Shuk and Yesh, and in Ramat Gan we went to Rami Levy.
Shefa Shuk is a subsidiary of Blue Square and has 17 branches. Yesh, a subsidiary of Super-Sol founded in 2008 to cater to Haredim, has 54 branches.
In each of the five stores we visited, we checked the prices of the same 25 items.
Dear reader, the lowest price for this basic cart of goods was not at the Haredi supermarkets, it was at Rami Levy.
Moreover, in the case of the sister chains, shopping at the Haredi store did not pay.
Only 15 items in the basket were cheaper at Mega Bool than at the fellow Blue Square chain targeting the Haredi market, Shefa Shuk. Three items were cheaper at Shefa Shuk than at Mega Bool, while 10 were the same. The cart cost NIS 15 less at Mega Bool.
Moving onto the Super-Sol chain, the total price of the basket at Super-Sol Deal and at Yesh was identical, at NIS 445 - roughly the same as at Mega Bool. That said, Yesh was cheaper than Super-Sol Deal on 15 items.
At Rami Levy, the 25-item basket costs NIS 409. That's nearly 10% less than at the other chains.
The shopping experience was much the same at all the stores. Parking at all the stores was convenient. The shelves were orderly and the prices were clearly marked.
But there were subtle differences between the chains. At our evening visits to the Haredi stores the meat counters were closed, which wasn't the case at the other chains.
The Haredi community is characterized by large families, yet the only chain offering bulk discounts, such as two 6-kilogram boxes of Ariel powder laundry detergent for NIS 100 instead of NIS 140, was Mega Bool.
Disposable diapers, an important staple for Haredi families, were not cheaper at the Haredi chains. Huggies Freedom cost the same at Super-Sol Deal, Mega Bool, Yesh and Shefa Shuk, at NIS 63 for a package. The same package was just NIS 50 at Rami Levy, which was also the cheapest for baby formula.
Another myth gone, that the Haredi chains are the best place to buy baby products.
Super-Sol said in a response that Super-Sol Deal provides solutions for different target populations and has the cheapest basket of products in respect to thousands of goods over time.
Blue Square said that the vision of Megal Bool is to provide the lowest prices in every city in Israel so that more and more customers can enjoy a large range of products at low prices, without discriminating by population.
Rami Levy, owner of the Rami Levy chain, said only that his chain's prices are lowest because that is what he is committed to: He checks the prices at the Haredi chains and makes his lower.
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