Rockets Be Damned, Israelis Head Back to the Malls

Three weeks into Protective Edge, more are risking short trips out of their homes, retailers say.

Tomer Appelbaum

After three weeks of staying close to home for fear of rocket fire, Israelis are once again hitting the shopping malls and cafes — even though Operation Protective Edge shows no sign of letting up, a survey by TheMarker shows.

“If you look at our outlets in Ashkelon and Ashdod, there has been about a 30% increase in sales since the start of this week, compared with the week before,” said Danny Mishel, CEO of the Aroma cafe chain. “But turnover is still 20% to 30% lower than we would expect to see in July.”

At Big Shopping Center, a developer of open-air shopping centers, CEO Hai Galis reported that sales for his tenants had begun to grow Saturday night, which he attributed in large part to the start of the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr.

Sales growth doubled in Be’er Sheva on Sunday, compared with a week earlier, but has been more restrained at malls with fewer Muslim customers, he said. Sales were up 15% at its shopping center at the greater Tel Aviv area’s Bilu Junction and 20% in Kiryat Gat.

“There’s been a significant change and a return to normalcy at our malls in the center of the country,” said Arnon Toren, CEO of Azrieli Malls. “Even in the south we’ve seen a positive change.”

In Netivot, retailers reported an uptick in sales after the Negev town enjoyed two-and-a-half days without a siren.

“Since the weekend, we’ve been seeing some revival, but of course it’s temporary — until the next siren. We haven’t seen a return to normal sales, especially considering that it’s summer vacation,” said Asaf Mazuz, who holds the Café Café franchise in Netivot.

Retailers ascribed the growing sales to people’s need to get out of their homes and to the decline in the number of sirens.

“People are fed up with being home and are coming out more, but they are coming for shorter durations and leaving,” said Pini Partok, CEO of the women’s clothing chain Zebra. “We don’t see shoppers hanging around for hours in shopping centers, enjoying themselves. They come for an hour or two, shop for a bit and head home.”

There were indications last week that Israelis might be starting to head back to stores and entertainment venues, with credit card company Isracard reporting that purchases made using its cards were down just 3% from the same time a year ago, an improvement over the 7% year-on-year decline during the first week of Protective Edge earlier this month.

Sivan Aizescu contributed to this report.