This New Year, Cheap Chicken Is Just So 5772

Rami Levy remains the price leader by wide margin; online shopping still costs more than shlepping to the stores.

Most Israelis were not thinking about Rosh Hashanah festivities at the beginning of this week, which was the start of school year, and that is something that Israel's food chains may have found worrying. In contrast to previous years where holiday shopping was spread out over at least two weeks, this year shoppers have just a week to fill up their refrigerators and pantries before the holiday. That is going to mean long lines at the checkout and reduced profits for the chains.

TheMarker examined the prices of a basket 50 holiday-related items, ranging from gefilte fish, horseradish and honey to dishwashing soap. Prices were compiled from visits to Super-Sol Deal on Yigal Alon Street in Tel Aviv, the Mega Bool in Tel Aviv's Yad Eliyahu neighborhood, the Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma in Ramat Gan and Yenot Bitan in Tel Aviv Towers. All comparisons were based on regular prices, without shoppers' club discounts. Comparisons with prices from 2011 and 2012 were based on figures from TheMarker survey of a basket of holiday goods in those years.

Rami Levy leads

As in previous years, the survey found that Rami Levy had the lowest prices. In fact, TheMarker’s representative food basket cost slightly less this year - NIS 369.50 versus NIS 376.10. The most expensive chain we found was Mega Bool, which was 50% more expensive than Rami Levy, with a basket of holiday goods there costing NIS 553.50. None of the other chains approached Rami Levy's prices, with Yenot Bitan costing NIS 480.50, 30% more than Rami Levy. Even at Super-Sol, which dramatically lowered prices for the goods in the holiday basket this year, you will still pay a 15%, or NIS 55, premium, over Rami Levy, with the basket of goods costing NIS 424.50.

Overall, the prices for more than 30 items, among them meat, fruit and vegetables, dry goods, beverages and Rosh Hashanah items, did not significantly change from last year. However, the prices for the entire basket of goods went in different directions at the different chains. The biggest drop was at Super-Sol Deal, where the holiday basket is 10% less this year than last year, dropping NIS 44 from NIS 468.85. However, the price of the holiday basket at Mega Bool rose 4%. At Yenot Bitan, which became the third-largest supermarket chain in the country after acquiring Mahsanei Kimat Hinam, the price of a holiday basket rose 4% from the year before at Mahsanei Kimat Hinam.

In sharp contrast to past sales promotions offering “chicken for a shekel,” the price of poultry has become significantly more expensive this Rosh Hashana. For example, a whole chicken at both Rami Levy and Super-Sol last year cost NIS 9.80 a kilogram. This year the price at both chains is between NIS 14.90 and 15.00, a 53% jump. At Mega Bool, a whole chicken cost NIS 14 a kilo last year and NIS 19 per kilo this year, a 36% increase.

Some items seem to be subject to perpetual price increases. For example, an 800-gram package of Sunfrost frozen corn: At Yenot Bitan, it will cost you NIS 13, compared with NIS 10 the past two years. At Super-Sol Deal, the price has shot up 113% over the past two years. Ahead of Rosh Hashana in 2011 it cost NIS 8.50; now it will cost you NIS 18.15. The sharpest hike in price for frozen corn was Mega Bool. In 2011, it would have cost you NIS 8.50, just like at Supersol. Last year, the price more than doubled to NIS 18.15. This year, that package of corn will cost you NIS 21.30, a price increase of more than 150% in just two years. The one major exception is Rami Levy, where the price has actually dropped 25 agorot to NIS 8.75 from NIS 9 the past two years.

Online still dear

TheMarker found that ordering online is not really an improvement and still costs more than going to a bricks and mortar store. Nonetheless, the price difference is shrinking. It is not clear whether that is because online prices are dropping or store prices are increasing.

Based on a price survey TheMarker conducted using the website MySupermarket.co.il on August 21, we found that buying groceries on the Internet, particularly on the busy shopping days ahead of Rosh Hashana, can be more convenient, save time and even in certain cases, save you money. Still, you should factor in that you will have to pay an extra NIS 20-30 for delivery.

Buying the basket of holiday goods online from Yenot Bitan was actually cheaper, costing NIS 431, over 10% less than the NIS 480.50 it would cost at the store. At Mega Bool, you can save close to NIS 30, or 6%, by buying the holiday basket online, where it costs NIS 521.20. But the greatest gap between online and store pricing was found on Super-Sol's website, where it reached nearly NIS 100. Online the basket of holiday goods cost NIS 519.80, 22% higher than what you would pay in the store. Regardless, even in online competition, Rami Levy offers the cheapest basket of holiday goods, at NIS 400.95. Still, that number is more – in fact, 8.5% more – than you would pay at an actual Rami Levy store.

AP
TheMarker