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Fear of rockets keeps Israelis out of shops, boosts online purchases
By NIV ELIS
07/22/2014
Pango, an app that lets people pay for parking from their mobile phones, sees significant drop in usage during course of fighting.
 
The effects of Hamas’s rocket attacks on the economy – clear anecdotally to anyone who has gone to a shopping mall or restaurant in Israel over the past two weeks – surfaced from two unusual sources on Monday.

The Manufacturers Association of Israel has estimated that factories in the South lost some NIS 445 million in the first 10 days of Operation Protective Edge that began on July 8, but the figure does not account for mom and pop shops, small and medium businesses, or even branches of chains. Many businesses have complained that their stores are less full, but the overall effects are tough to quantify. During 2012’s eightday Operation Pillar of Defense, communities near the Gaza Strip lost an estimated NIS 100m. a day in GDP. But assessing the damage the current war is inflicting on businesses takes time, and good data will not be available until well after Hamas has packed up any remaining rockets it may have.

Pango, an app that lets people pay for parking from their mobile phones, has seen a significant drop in usage during the course of fighting, indicating that people are going out less often. In Bat Yam, there has been a 72 percent decline in usage, followed by a 68% drop in Ashdod and 54% in Rishon Lezion.

“Inhabitants in bombarded cities prefer to stay near protected areas and rarely walk in the streets,” Pango CEO Roy Elbaz said. “They’re putting off plans in places that aren’t protected until easier times.”

Nationally, usage fell by an average of 8%. There was even an increase in cities that were farthest from the conflict, as residents of the South sought to get away from the rockets.

The fact that people were less likely to be out and about shopping, however, does not mean that they gave up shopping altogether.

Habaitta, an e-commerce website, said its sales had increased some 75%. While 60% of its sales are usually to the periphery, since Protective Edge began that share has grown to 70%. Residents of the South have accounted for 45% of its sales since the operation began.

Habaitta CEO Shemi Levi believes people are stocking up in case the situation gets worse, noting that basic, non-perishable products – especially baby products such as diapers, milk substitutes and wipes – have been top sellers.

“There is real sense that people are storing for emergencies in case there is a problem in inventory supply, buying essential goods such as diapers, particularly in the South,” he said.
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