Something new

Pessah countdown could certainly be compared to consumer craziness experienced prior to Christmas abroad.

cosmetics 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
cosmetics 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
This week is perhaps Zehava Tamir's busiest. Aside from the extensive cleaning to rid her house of hametz, coupled with the general purging of clutter and preparing the festive meal for her large family, Tamir is also determined to get herself ready for that special once a year event - Seder night. "I want everything to be perfect," announces the 50-something mother and grandmother who lives in Mevaseret Zion, just outside Jerusalem. "I want to sit at my table and feel like a queen. Taking care of me is obviously important to me throughout the whole year, But at the Seder, it is important for me to look my very best." Along with the new clothes, makeup and perfumes she is planning to buy this week, Tamir says she will also make sure that her nails are cut, cleaned and manicured, her face is pampered and pristine and her hair, including color, is picture perfect. "My whole family is going to be at my house for the Seder and while I do prepare like this before other festivals, there is something special about Pessah," she says. Tamir is not alone. She is one of thousands of Israeli women, both religious and secular, who toss out their old makeup, choose to buy new cosmetic products, especially perfume, and make sure they are booked in for a full face and body treatment at the local beautician or spa. "Pessah is a spring festival, directly following the winter months, and people feel the need to air themselves after being cooped up inside all that time," explains Shulamit Beck, a beautician for the past 40 years who works out of her home in the mixed secular-religious Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Mordechai. In the weeks leading up to the festival, Beck says that she is inundated with requests for treatments ranging from manicures and pedicures to full facials, eyebrow, legs and arm waxing and many more services. She finds it difficult to keep up with the demand. "I don't usually work on Fridays, but before Pessah I agree to open up for extra hours in order to fit everyone in," she says, likening the rush for face and body treatments to Pessah spring cleaning at home. "Women want to clean themselves too in preparation for the festival. Suddenly the sun is shining and more people are going out." Asked if there is any difference between the religious and secular women she treats as they prepare for the holiday, Beck answers that the demand for treatments before the festival is usually more common among secular women. "Religious women take care of themselves all year round," she concludes. IT'S EXACTLY one week before Pessah and the Bilu Center - one of the few shopping malls countrywide that fully operates on Saturdays - is jam-packed with shoppers. Finding a parking spot in this organic, almost make-shift mall is certainly a challenge, but it's nothing compared to the tactical fighting needed to push through the throngs of customers and enter anyone of the packed shops. Among the busiest on this Saturday are the shoe stores, house and kitchenware shops and the several outlets stocking cosmetics and other beauty products. "People like to buy new clothes and personal goods, as well as pots, pans, cutlery, sheets and towels for Pessah," comments Yael Yosef, 56, from the Jerusalem area, who was not at the Bilu Center last Saturday but who says she is well aware of the increased shopping rush in the lead-up to the spring festival. "It is nothing new, people have always liked to have new things before Pessah," she observes, adding that because items are much cheaper than in the past, new purchases are not such a big deal. While these days, the countdown to Pessah could certainly be compared to the consumer craziness one might experience just prior to Christmas in the US or Europe, here certain items such as crockery and cutlery, as well as personal hygiene products and cosmetics, are far more popular. "There are two festivals every year that account for almost 60 percent of our sales in perfumes," comments Herzlia Ashkenazy, cosmetics manager for the Superpharm chain. "August/September in the lead-up to Rosh Hashana and March/April right before Pessah are definitely the busiest times." At Pessah, she says, "there is equal emphasis on purchasing perfumes, not makeup so much, and housewares." Noga Wyman, marketing director for cosmetics at Diplomat, which distributes a range of international products, adds also that perfume is the "ultimate gift to give someone at Pessah time." "We usually see a big increase in sales during April, especially the week before Pessah," she says. At Superpharm, Ashkenazy predicts that sales will reach roughly 400,000 bottles of perfume ahead of the holiday and that the average Israeli will end up buying around 2.4 bottles. "Because the prices are so low these days, most women end up owning more than one bottle of perfume at a time," she points out, adding that it is likely some people throw out their old bottles ahead of the festival. AT BILU last Saturday, the loudspeaker continually announced deals galore at every store from Castro and Renuar (clothing) to Laline and Superpharm (cosmetics and perfumes). "There is definitely a surge in purchasing new clothes, cosmetics and perfumes," observes beautician Ester Doga. "While I personally don't feel an increase in business because I have my regular clients, I know that the shops are completely packed with customers and it's traditional to buy perfume on Pessah." Of course the rush to buy perfume is also fueled by the rash of deals offered by the various chains. "It's a cycle," explains Superpharm's Ashkenazy. "Because people are buying a lot of perfumes, then we get better deals from our suppliers and the customers end up winning by getting brands at an excellent price." She says those prices range from NIS 100 for older stock up to NIS 300 for the latest brands. Ashkenazy also says there is no difference between the secular and religious publics in terms of purchases and that sale of men and women's scents are fairly equal. "We invest in a lot of advertising this time of year, in newspapers and on TV," she says. "News about our sales is everywhere and people really do get good deals, even better than if they bought their perfumes at the airport's duty-free stores."