Christmas Shopping Taking Off Among Israeli Jews

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There may not be many Christians in Israel, but Jewish Israelis are adopting the holiday in order to shop, say retailers.

Non-kosher grocery store chain Tiv Ta’am and homeware store Domo saw a 30% increase in Christmas-related items among Jewish customers, said Adi Cohen, the stores’ CEO. These items include chocolate in Santa Claus wrapping, Christmas trees and decorations, said Cohen.

In previous years, the increase in Christmas-related purchases had been observed mostly in areas with sizeable Christian populations. This year, however, it’s at all the stores, even in Tel Aviv.

“It’s turned into a legitimate holiday and a reason for celebration,” said Cohen.
Big Shopping Centers, which includes Big Fashion in the Muslim and Christian Arab town of Nazareth, reported a peak of 120,000 shoppers last Saturday. Most of them were Jews, said the mall chain.

“We decorated the chopping center and had a man dressed up as Santa Claus wandering around and handing out gifts to the Israelis. We’re seeing lots of Jews who come to visit and along the way buy Santa caps and other Christmas paraphernalia, said Chai Galis, VP of Big Shopping Centers.

Part of the reason people are buying more as Christmas approaches is that there are events and parties being held, said Moshe Rosenblum, CEO of the Melisron group. “People find any reason to have a party and this holiday has become like any other in this country. We’re seeing increased sales at all our malls as a result of the parties and events,” said Rosenblum. “There’s an increase in sales of clothing, gifts, wine and more.”

Jewelry chain H. Stern reported a 40% increase in sales, but said it couldn’t say what was due to Christmas and what was due to the New Year.

“The increase in December sales was very significant this year,” said CEO Israel Kort. “People bought, and they bought a lot. There wasn’t an increase among religious Jews, but rather among [secular] Israeli Jews,” said Kort, noting that the increase in sales among Christians was obviously even greater.

Department store chain Hamashbir Lazarchan reported an increase in jewelry, cosmetics and underwear sales of 30% in the north, which includes areas with sizeable Christian Arab populations, such as Haifa and Nazareth, as opposed to an increase of 12% to 14% in primarily Jewish areas.

Chocolate chain Max Brenner said its main increase in sales was from Israeli Jews buying gifts for colleagues and customers overseas, and much less from Israeli Jews actually celebrating Christmas. Sales are up 20% versus the parallel period last year, said CEO Yaniv Shtanger

Christmas in Jerusalem's Old City. December 21, 2013.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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