Israelis Descend on Malls for Black Friday

There’s no Thanksgiving and no Christmas, but sales were 23% higher on November 27 than on a typical November day as shoppers adopt American-style binge buying with gusto

There’s no Thanksgiving the preceding day to precede it and no Christmas shopping season to kick off, but Israeli shoppers and merchants have nonetheless jumped on the American consumer extravaganza of Black Friday.

Store sales on Friday were 23% higher than a typical November shopping day, the Israeli market research firm Retail Information Systems reported, based on sales it monitors at 2,700 stores across the country.

The figures for online sales are less complete, but they point to an unprecedented shopping spree by Israelis on foreign websites that offer Black Friday discounts and shipping to Israel. Isracard said it had indications that the number of credit card transactions on Friday was 2.5 times the daily average for the month, while the sales volume was 2.3 times the average. The credit-card issuer did not provide amounts.

“The retail chains have been calling to say they had numbers they haven’t seen in a long time. They reported sales increases in the tens of percent, mainly for apparel,” said Eyal Sakoza, general manager of the Hadar Mall in Jerusalem, which is owned and managed by the Melisron group. “The number of visitors was up 40% compared to a normal Friday.”

In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving — which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November — has kicked off the Christmas shopping season since at least the 1930s. The term “Black Friday” goes back at least 50 years to describe the traffic jams created by people using their post-Thanksgiving day off work — or calling in sick if their employer did not give it to them, thus leading to the first known usage of the term. It has come to refer to the point in the year when retailers move into the black, that is earn a profit.

In the United States there are signs the phenomenon may be past its peak, at least for brick-and-mortar stores, whose Black Friday sales declined to $10.4 billion this year, from $11.6 billion in 2014, according to the retail researcher ShopperTrak. But online sales jumped 14% on Black Friday from 2014, bringing in $2.72 billion — and that was before the e-commerce sector celebrates its own sale day, Cyber Monday, this week.

For Israelis, though, the concept is new and still has room to grow, said Ofer Yarom, vice president for marketing at mall developer Azrieli Group.

“In the United States Black Friday has been running for years and they’re seeing increased online sales at the expense of traffic in the malls,:” he said. “In Israel, the phenomenon is only a few years old and is still growing stronger. From one year to the next more chains are joining and the sales are better.”

At Azrieli-owned malls, Yarom said stores saw sales jump 50% or more from ordinary levels while traffic was 20% to 30% higher at shopping malls in Israel’s Negev and Galilee and even higher in the center of the country.

Gama Management and Clearing, Israel’s largest credit-card transaction processing company, reported more modest gains: It said the number of purchases by plastic was up 7% on Friday from the three previous Fridays, and the amount of the average purchase was unchanged at 282 shekels ($72.60).

But Gama did find that sales rose sharply in certain categories: Home electronics jumped 75% from previous Fridays in November and the size of the average purchase rose 53% to 1,110 shekels. But in apparel, sales were up 13%, although the average size of a purchase was unchanged at 227 shekels.

Gama’s figures take in a wider swathe of sales, encompassing 12,000 businesses, not counting Internet, and 222,000 transactions. It found Black Friday sales reached 63 million shekels, up from between 48 million shekels to 53 million shekels on each of the three preceding Fridays.

Ali Express, a Chinese shopping site popular with Israelis, told Israel Post that on Black Friday Israelis bought more than 1 million items from it.

In fact, Israel’s postal service is still contending with another international shopping event that Israeli consumers have begun taking advantage of, namely China’s Singles Day, which takes place every year on November 11. Israel Post said that last weekend, 160 tons of goods ordered then were delivered to its central distribution center — three times the volume for an average weekend and 80% more than after 2014’s Singles Day.

Between Singles Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Israel Post said it expects to be deluged by packages from abroad nearly nonstop for the next month.