Super-Sol Bends, Will Cut Prices of 30 Products

Facebook protest against 'Dankner tax' was to culminate in week's boycott.

The Super-Sol retail chain yesterday bowed to the demands of students and agreed to lower the prices of 30 leading products by 20%, at least, lasting through to Passover next year. The agreement was struck after a meeting on the students' turf with Super-Sol's top people, chief business manager Richard Hunter and CEO Efi Rosenhaus and follows a move earlier this week to attract buyers with discounts on 1,000 products.

The latest products were chosen from a list the students gave the chain, which belongs to Nochi Dankner's IDB group of companies. The list include eggs, hummus, milk, rice, bread, breakfast cereals and Materna baby formula.

Super-Sol is the biggest retail chain in Israel, turning over NIS 11 billion a year. Its market share of bar-coded foodstuffs is 37%. Nor is the chain's management considered to be a bunch of shrinking violets. Yet where the suppliers feared to tread, the Student Union of Tel Aviv University did not. They launched a Facebook protest and collected thousands of "friends" for a week-long boycott of the chain.

"We are satisfied and after the million-man march [planned for Saturday night], will announce the next target," said Ran Livneh, chairman of the TAU Student Union. "This is a highly significant achievement for the Israeli consumer. But it doesn't solve the entire problem of the cost of food in Israel," he said after the meeting with the Super-Sol chiefs last night. "We call on the public to stand behind us, after the million-man march, for another boycott."

Not everybody was impressed. "Lowering the price of 1,000 products is nice. But remember that year-end is just a few months away," said a top executive at a retail chain. And, he added, it remains to be seen where Super-Sol will give the discounts: at its regularly priced stores, or at its heavy-discount branches.

"The fact that they could lower prices means they had where to cut from. Their prices were indeed high. I, in any case, will always be cheaper," said Rami Levi, head of the eponymous Shivuk Hashikma chain.

Itzik Alrov, spearhead of the cottage cheese protest that triggered the tsunami of social protests in Israel, commented that the battle goes on. "We mean to lower food prices by 30%," he said. "There's no reason to settle for a 15% discount on some products for a limited period of time."

Why did the students pick Super-Sol, anyway? On the Facebook page, which collected 7,000 "friends," they explain that it is the "display window" of Israeli retail, being the biggest supermarkets chain, and is therefore just as guilty as the big manufacturers for the increase in food prices.

"It isn't efficient. Its mechanisms are bloated and the entire market toes the line it sets," wrote the students on their Facebook page. "You think VAT is high? Think about 'Dankner tax,' the money Nochi Dankner pockets from each milk, rice, cottage cheese and bag of Bamba [peanut puffs] we buy."

On Sunday night representatives of the students met with Super-Sol executives, at the latter's request, after which Livneh announced that the boycott would be delayed by 48 hours as a goodwill gesture. Super-Sol for its part lost no time announcing special deals ahead of the September holidays. The company said it was lowering the price of its most popular 1,000 products at Super-Sol Sheli and Super-Sol Yeshir branches by 15%. Ahead of the holidays it would cut prices of 1,600 more products by at least 25%, the chain said.