As Protest Staggers and Summer Burns, Israel's Malls Report Sharp Uptick in Sales

Mall sales soar as protest wanes , but store owners fear crash later on in the year, as holidays end and prices jump.

After half a year of stagnation, Israel's shopping malls report a sharp upswing in sales during the last two months. Mall executives ascribe the uptick to two main factors – the evaporation of the cost-of-living protests, and the burning summer heat, leading shoppers to seek succor at the air-conditioned malls.

From conversations with executives at the mall management companies, July-August sales increased by as much as 30% compared with the same period last year.

"For us average growth was 20% in comparison with last year," says Ofer Shechter, the CEO of Ariel Properties Promall Mall Management, which manages 30 shopping centers. "Last year the social justice protest movement was at its height in July and August, and badly depressed sales. This year, the protest is much less noticeable."

In addition, August was characterized by heavy shopping by the religious sector.

"The weather was also especially hot this year, and in light of the rise in electricity prices and the campaign by the Israel Electric Corporation that called on the public not to turn on electrical appliances during the day, many people went to shopping malls to cool off," Shechter said.

There's another reason sales of clothing, electronics and computing appliance sales shot up: people hastening to shop before VAT increased on September 1, says Moshe Rosenblum, the co-CEO of Melisron, which owns 24 shopping centers.

But the past does not portend the future, and mall owners quake are afraid. "The feeling in the market is that the crash is going to come after the holidays," says Hai Galis, marketing and operations management VP for BIG Shopping Centers.