Consumer Goods Sales Slow in Wake of Tent Protests

Nielsen survey finds cottage cheese at the center of the slump, but other dairy products get hit as well.

Dairy companies are making a lot less money from the product that started all the hoopla about cost-of-living and social justice.

Revenues from cottage cheese sales plummetted 18% in the first half of this year. The decrease was a result of both the Tnuva strike that temporarily cut off supplies and last year's cottage cheese boycott.

But that wasn't the only dairy whose sales revenues fell: manufacturers made 11% less on fruit yogurt sales so far this year, and 4% less on soft white cheese.

Things are starting to pick up though. "The drastic drop in sales started after the Shavuot holiday [at the end of May]," said a top official at one of the country's dairy products companies. "But the first few days of July reflect better sales."

But, he said, consumers are switching from the more expensive fruit yogurts to plain white ones.

Revenues from other foods, as well as drinks, cosmetics and household goods also dropped significantly in the first half of 2012, according to figures from Nielsen, which are based on real-time data directly from cash registers, and covers 97% of the non-Arab retail sector for such goods.

Sales rose just 1%

The data come from stores that scan barcodes, including major and independent supermarket and pharmacy chains, as well as many small grocery stores.

Altogether, sales revenues from consumer goods rose by only 1% in the first six months of 2012, compared with the same period of 2011. Revenues had risen 3% for the first half of 2011, compared to the previous year - though that increase came from higher prices, as opposed to more transactions.

The population of Israel is growing at about a 2% annual rate, so a 1% sales growth really means a per capita drop in sales.

Though consumer sales continued to rise by 1.9% in the second half of 2011, revenues were down, since most large chain stores and some manufacturers cut prices after the social protests last summer.

These figures are similar to those of the 2009 recession, when the growth in sales of consumer products fell to 2.9% from 9.7% growth in 2008. But then too, the 2008 growth came mostly from higher prices, and not increased sales. This year's growth figures are the lowest since the recession of 2009.

This year, stores and manufacturers could not raise prices in the wake of the social protests. And since the quantities sold stayed about the same, they earned less on the goods.

Inquatitastive terms, there was a 0.5% increase in sales in the first half of 2012 - again, well under the 2% increase in population and a drop in per capita sales.

Food drops, too

The drop in revenues for all food products is similar to that of all consumer products, but less steep. They rose 1.8% in the first half of the year, compared with 2.1% growth in the six months before that and 3.3% in the first half of last year.

The decrease was especially steep in the second quarter of this year: 0.7%. But part of that drop may be related to the Passover holidays, as most holiday purchases came in March, which caused a hike in first quarter sales results.

The biggest revenue drop in the consumer goods category came in the drinks industry. Profits fell 3% in the first half of 2012 - and that was after they had already been sluggish in the previous year and a half.

It seems that consumers view drinks as a somewhat luxury product that can be cut back on when times are tough.

Carbonated beverages saw a 2% fall in sales revenues. Bottled water revenues plummeted, by 7%.

Large, pricier supermarket chains were the most affected by the changes in consumer spending, said a senior official at a large food manufacturer. Sales at the low-priced chains such as Rami Levi and Hatzi Hinam are growing, while sales at the big chains, such as Mega and Super-Sol, are falling, he added.

Cash sales in retail chains