Beit Shemesh's Food War

New supermarket brings prices down - for now.

Beit Shemesh residents must feel especially fortunate in recent weeks, at least when they wheel their shopping carts into the local supermarket. A 1.5-liter bottle of Prigat juice can be had for only NIS 4, and Huggies diapers for just NIS 38.

Their good luck can be traced to the opening of a local branch of the Osher Ad supermarket about two weeks ago, which set off a price war with the city's other food retailers. Within a radius of a few kilometers, Super-Sol Deal, Osher Ad and Kimat Hinam all operate outlets. And more stores will be crowding in: According to the market research firm Czamanski Ben Shahar & Co., they will joined by at least two others - a branch of Rami Levi within eight months to a year, and an outlet belonging to a new chain being established by Hamashbir Lazarchan called Cost 365.

The price war broke out when Super-Sol Deal decided it would not cede customers to the newly-opened Osher Ad. The others could not stand by and they joined the fight, too. An examination by TheMarker on Tuesday compared prices at Super-Sol Deal's Beit Shemesh outlet with its store in Kiryat Bialik, just north of Haifa,where the competition is less severe. Among 18 products, 10 of them were lower in the Beit Shemesh branch. The 1.5-liter Prigat was selling for NIS 6 in Kiryat Bialik, 50% more than in Beit Shemesh. Pantene conditioner was selling in Beit Shemesh for NIS 16.50 versus NIS 24 in Kiryat Bialik. Huggies in Kiryat Bialik were NIS 54.30, more than 40% higher than in Beit Shemesh.

On the other hand, three products were selling for more in Beit Shemesh than in Kiryat Bialik. Lenor fabric softener, for instance, was NIS 19.10 versus NIS 18.30.

The supermarket price war has been waged in other communities as well. It usually begins when upstart Rami Levi enters a new territory, spurring Super-Sol and Mega, the two veteran rivals, to quickly cut prices. Rami Levi set off a fight for shoppers' wallets in Be'er Sheva several months ago.

More recently, the battle was joined in Ashdod. There, the defenders included Osher Ad, Super-Sol Deal, Mega and a handful of others against Rami Levi's assault. At a Super-Sol Deal in Ashdod, 19 out of 20 products surveyed were cheaper on this week than in November. Telma cornflakes cost NIS 17, compared with NIS 20 last November. Hawaii brand hand cream was NIS 9, down from NIS 16; Dove body wash was NIS 22 versus NIS 18; and Shahar chocolate spread cost NIS 9, down from NIS 11.80.