In Israel, Coronavirus Sends Sales Plunging in Four Key Sectors

Numbers from the Bank of Israel point to a free fall in fashion, tourism, restaurants and gasoline

Adi Dovrat-Meseritz
Adi Dovrat-Meseritz
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A closed restaurant is seen at a shopping center in Hadera, Israel, Sunday, March 15, 2020.
A closed restaurant is seen at a shopping center in Hadera, Israel, Sunday, March 15, 2020.Credit: Ariel Schalit,AP
Adi Dovrat-Meseritz
Adi Dovrat-Meseritz

As the government weighs when and how to lead the economy out of its coronavirus lockdown, the Bank of Israel reported this week that three of the hardest-hit sectors have seen their turnover plunge by as much as 84%.

Using data collected by Shva, the company that processes credit card transactions nationwide, the report comes a week after the central bank estimated that at the end of March economic output equal to 37% of gross domestic product had shut down and private consumption had shrunk 27%.

With the vast majority of Israelis ordered to remain at home and stores and malls shut, apparel retailers had hoped to compensate by higher online sales.

But the Bank of Israel numbers show that the effort failed, with daily sales via credit card on all apparel plunging 78% from 41 million shekels ($11.5 million) before nonessential stores were ordered shut. The figure fell to 9 million at the end of March.

Travel and tourism, another sector that has been hard hit, saw its daily credit card spending drop nearly 76% to 29 million shekels at the end of March from 122 million at the start of the month, the central bank said.

By comparison, in January and February, two slow months for the industry, there was not a single day in which turnover fell below 100 million shekels, the Bank of Israel said.

Restaurants and cafes saw their daily credit card turnover plummet to 12 million shekels at the end of last month from a daily average of between 55 million and 75 million shekels before restrictions were imposed, a drop of as much as 84%.

Restaurants and cafes were told to shut their dining areas but allowed people to pick up take-out orders and for restaurants to deliver. After March 24, however, on-site pickups were banned.

Spending on gasoline tumbled two-thirds after government directives allowing only nonessential workers to continue working at their jobs. Gasoline sales by credit card dropped to 15 million shekels a day at the end of March from 45 million in the middle of the month, the Bank of Israel said.