Passover Shopping Appears Sluggish, as Israelis Wait Til Last Minute

Pre-Passover retail sales so far are among the lowest recorded in recent years, according to figures released by Gama Management and Clearing.

Pre-Passover retail sales so far are among the lowest recorded in recent years, according to figures released by Gama Management and Clearing.

The average purchase at the beginning of the week, with only one week to go before the holiday starts on Monday, was just 2.5% larger than during the first two weeks of March − NIS 411 compared with NIS 400. The figures are based on 2 million credit-card purchases at 6,000 stores and businesses nationwide.

There has been only a 7% rise in the number of purchases and a 10% increase in total sales. This is drastically lower than the overall 21% rise in sales the week before Passover during the previous two years and the average 18% increase in historical terms.

Pre-holiday purchases averaged NIS 434 last year and NIS 563 in 2011.

“The sharp downturn in sales before Passover is surprising, although in retrospect it can be seen as part of a trend over the last four years toward a drop in the average purchase and an increase in the number of transactions,” says Gama CEO Ariel Ganot.

“It seems the holidays, holiday eves and intermediate days of the holiday in particular are increasingly losing their value as special shopping times. People buy all year at large and new shopping centers and no longer need any special incentive to shop,” Ganot says.

But if people are scrimping on their pre-holiday purchases, the supermarket chains don’t expect it to come at their expense. Food-store chains paint a brighter picture than the retail sector as a whole and hope that last year’s relatively weak numbers won’t be repeated.

“From year to year, we’re seeing the rise in sales happen closer to the holiday,” said one senior supermarket executive. “Last Rosh Hashanah, for example, people did their shopping a day or two before the holiday.”

Other food chains say they have already seen a major jump in sales volumes.
Sources in the shopping-mall sector say their holiday shopping season is also getting shorter every year, because consumers don’t think of the run-up to the holiday as a festive shopping period like they used to.

This seems to be borne out by figures from the Storenext retail data firm, which indicates the trend was already evident last year for the major supermarket chains. In the two weeks that preceded Passover last year, sales came to NIS 1.76 billion, compared to NIS 1.91 billion in 2011, Storenext reports.

“People don’t get all excited about [the approach of] the holiday like they once did,” said Ofer Shechter, the CEO of the Ariel Properties Promall shopping-center management company. “They buy year-round. There is no longer any ceremonial practice of buying new clothes and gifts for the entire family.”

There are of course people who do buy gifts, he added, “but with less enthusiasm.”

Furthermore, “for Passover, people get retail gift vouchers,” Shechter added, referring to the common holiday perk employers provide to employees prior to the holiday, and redeemable at a wide range of stores. “And they go out and complete their shopping.”

Shechter said he expects the trend of dwindling pre-holiday shopping to become even greater in future years.

Dan Keinan
Tomer Appelbaum