Holiday Shopping Plummets 10 Percent

The economic recession and the terrorism threat are affecting holiday shopping. Usually sales rise during the holiday season, but managers of the marketing chains and shopping centers report a 10 percent drop in pre-Rosh Hashanah sales this year compared to 2002.

Not only are people shopping less, they are also putting off their shopping to the last moment. Last year, the holiday spree began a week before the holiday; this year, shoppers began streaming to the stores only Thursday morning.

Clubmarket CEO Ya'akov Ginzburg said the recession affects the shopping volume, which plummeted by some 5 percent. The price reductions in the large chains led to a further 5 percent drop in revenue. Altogether, he said, the food chains income was 10 percent less than last year's.

The big food chains offered relatively large reductions, mainly due to Supersol's lowering the prices of beef, fish, fowl and wine by up to 50 percent. Chain CEO Effi Ronshois said the sales attracted a good crowd, considering the economic situation. "Supersol's sales will only go down by a few percent compared to last year," he said. Sources in the business said the bargains cost the chain some NIS 6 million.

Unlike the large chains, Tiv Ta'am reported a sales increase of 2 to 3 percent. The chain, which sells chicken for NIS 11.5 per kilogram all year round, less than other chains, lowered its prices further following Supersol's reductions. "Our clients remained faithful this holiday season to those who give them lower prices all year round," a Tiv Ta'am source said.

Two weeks ago, shopping center managers assumed the threat of suicide bombings was keeping people away, and predicted the crowds would throng to the malls a week before the holiday. But the shoppers they were waiting for arrived only Thursday morning.

Despite the improvement in the last few days, sales are lower than last year, said Benny Cohen, director of Africa Israel's shopping centers. The differences, he said, are especially felt in the fashion chains.

Having just put their winter collections on display, fashion chains are suffering both because of the high temperatures and because people are trying to cut costs "and buying mainly food and gifts," he said.

The manager of a chain outlet on a main Tel Aviv street was almost empty Thursday afternoon, while last year people stood in line on the pavement outside a week before the