The consumer protests are working

Twenty-two percent of respondents have cut their spending on food, 11% on entertainment, 11% on clothing and 7% on dairy products.

By EFRAT AHARONI/GLOBES
August 19, 2011 06:59
3 minute read.
cottage cheese

cottage cheese 311 R. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Thirty-four percent of consumers have cut back their purchases as a result of the tent and other protests, and 60% of them are looking for cheaper products when shopping, according to a survey by Rotem TRI for Globes. In both cases, more women than men said they had changed their shopping habits.

Twenty-two percent of the respondents have cut their spending on food, 11% on entertainment, 11% on clothing and 7% on dairy products.

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Spending on housing, water and other utilities were at the bottom of the list.

A quarter of the respondents said they were boycotting companies in response to the recent events: 56% are boycotting Tnuva Food Industries Ltd., 11% are boycotting foreign goods, 10% are boycotting food company Strauss Group Ltd., and 5% are boycotting fashion brands, supermarkets, Huggies diapers and Coca-Cola.

The value of the cottage cheese war should not be minimized.

The decision to pick this common product to spearhead the protests was sagacious, although changing the dairy market is a complex issue that is still under discussion.

The proposed dairy reform is controversial. Imports of dairy products are still on the agenda, and prices have not been lowered, with the exception of cottage cheese. The price for white cheese has even climbed.

Cottage-cheese boycott organizer Itzik Alrov said no real change has occurred in the market, but consumer behavior has changed.

“People who previously never bothered to look at the price, now carefully check prices very carefully before putting products into the cart,” he said. “People are saving hundreds of shekels in their monthly shopping.”

Alrov said shoppers should not buy cottage cheese for more than NIS 5 per container or dairy puddings for more than NIS 2.90, and they should look for cheaper cheeses at the deli counter.

Eleven percent of the respondents were very knowledgeable about products that are price controlled, 46% could name some price-controlled products (usually milk, the standard loaf of bread and eggs), and 43% could not name price-controlled products.

Asked if they were more knowledgeable about price controlled products as a result of the cottage-cheese boycott, half of the respondents said yes, but half said no; 40% of the respondents said they preferred price-controlled products.

Diaper protest wanes, prices rise again

The parents’ protest about the high cost of diapers and other infant products, and calls for price controls, has given way to wider, more pressing demands for subsidized day care and education. Supermarket sales on diapers have disappeared as a result, and prices are back at their pre-protest levels.

Gasoline price rise halted Protests against rising gasoline prices preceded the tent protest by months, and they worked. In February, the government rescinded the NIS 0.30 per liter hike in the excise, just one month after it came into effect.

“At the level of principle, we’ve had successes,” Gasoline protest leader Ze'ev Grower said. “They may not be enough, but we achieved something. In February, they cut the excise, they’ve canceled future hikes, and [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is trying to get [Finance Minister Yuval] Steinitz to lower the cost to consumer by reducing indirect taxes.”

That success strengthened the protest movement as a whole, he said, adding, “The slogans quickly changed to the general cost of living and social justice for everyone,” The final objective, Grower said, is to cut the excise to 30% from 60% and to restore price controls on diesel.

Electricity hike halved The proposed 20% hike in electricity rates was cut in half following Netanyahu’s lastminute intervention. The Knesset Finance Committee approved a Finance Ministry directive cutting the excise on diesel for the generation of electricity by 69% until the end of 2011. What will happen then is still not known.

The excise cut was controversial.

During the Finance Committee debate, some members said the NIS 1.5 billion cost of the measure should to be used for day care.


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