Commmunity relations and business success amid the coronavis pandemic

A business expert from Lahav, a Bank Hapoalim branch manager and two owners of stores in Bnei Brak explain how to cope with the financial crisis—and even emerge from it stronger.

Bank Hapoalim (photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
Bank Hapoalim
(photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
How donations to yeshivas are affecting financial activity in a majority-Haredi city. When to split your targeting approach to two audiences—residents and outside customers.  And the advantage gained by business owners who took the time in lockdown to develop their e-tailing website .  A business expert from Lahav, a Bank Hapoalim branch manager and two owners of stores in Bnei Brak explain how to cope with the financial crisis—and even emerge from it stronger.
 

Yosi Karl
Visitors are Impressed by the Adherence to the Guidelines

“We are a family business that started out from our grandparents, who were tailors. They set up the first store in 1977, and today, my father Yehuda and I manage five stores together—three in Bnei Brak and two in Jerusalem. We specialize in men’s fashion—suits, shirts, shoes, ties etc—that combines the quality of the boutique shops on Kikar HaMedina in Tel Aviv with the prices of Bnei Brak. Our client base comes from all over the country and includes both national religious and secular people, often businessmen and lawyers. At the start of the year we were working on a new branding strategy, and then we started to feel the impact of the coronavirus. Our products are manufactured in China under our own label, and we started to experience supply issues before Passover. 
“When we saw the situation, we closed our stores and furloughed our staff, even before the whole country went into lockdown for the first time. We were not willing to risk the health of our staff, because some things are more important than money. It was sad to see all the goods sitting there in storage. There were a few lone cases when we came in to provide grooms with clothes ahead of their wedding. We made the most of this period to promote our e-tailing website that is due to launch soon. Our goal is for our online customers to find the clothes that are right for them and to provide a unique buying experience.
“When the economy started to reopen after the first lockdown, we opened all our stores at once. We had customers and we had income, but obviously our turnover was affected. What upsets me is how the actions of a few extremists have led to all residents of Bnei Brak being stigmatized as not adhering to the regulations—which could not be further from the truth. Before the second lockdown, whenever people would come to us from elsewhere, they were always pleasantly surprised at the level of adherence to personal hygiene, masks and temperature checks. It is unacceptable to hurt the livelihood of an entire community, especially one which is already bearing the brunt of the coronavirus crisis.”
The writer is one of the owners and managers of “Karl”, a men’s fashion chain Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. Tel: 054-6691902
Yuval Cohen
We Set Up a Delivery Network from One Day to the Next
“My father, Yosi, worked as a travelling salesman for a large homeware marketing company. About ten years ago, he came off the road and purchased the store from a friend of his. The store has been going for over 30 years, and is renowned throughout Bnei Brak. We sell all kinds of homeware—from welcome mats to outdoor plastic storage units to kitchen utensils—at all different price ranges. At the start of the year, I was in South America on my post-army trip when I received a call from my dad, who said “I’ve found a good space near the Coca-Cola factory for a second store—come back to Israel”. I came back to Israel very soon after, and together with my younger brother, we started to prepare the store for a pre-Passover opening—the peak time of the year for homeware sales—and then the coronavirus struck and we stopped everything.
“During the first lockdown, we were allowed to come to the store in Bnei Brak, but only to coordinate a delivery network for customers who needed items and equipment for the holiday. It wasn’t easy, but we found creative ways to set up a delivery network from one day to the next. At the same time, we invested in an ad in a key local newspaper advertising our holiday products. In hindsight, these measures gave us strength and oxygen in a period where regular work was running dry.
“In early May, we went back to work, and also brought our two experienced staff members back from furlough. Our revenue isn’t as high as it was previously, but that is true of everywhere in Bnei Brak. Less money is being donated to the yeshivas and the bochurs studying in them, and that has a knock-on effect. It’s a cycle where one thing depends on another. Rabbi Akiva St used to be full of life, now there’s almost no traffic along it. The whole industry is also having supply issues, because imports, especially from China, have come to an almost complete halt. There are products that I have been waiting to receive since before Passover and that are yet to arrive.”

The writer is the manager of the “Home Place” homeware stores
Sokolov 4, Bnei Brak. Tel: 054-6287516
Omer Hermoni
Focus on Product and Service Quality
At the moment, there is no point in engaging in the argument surrounding Bnei Brak and making the case for it being as safe as any other city. The stigma will eventually disappear, and those who are already coming to the shops have overcome their concerns. I would recommend to businesses in the city to split their advertising and messaging toward two different audiences: residents of Bnei Brak (via local newspapers, Hadrei Haredim and the like), and the rest of the population (via digital media).
For clients from outside the city, focus on the quality of the product and the service, and keep mentions of Bnei Brak to a minimum. When advertising the new “Home Place” branch, refer to the location as “close to the Coca-Cola junction”. For the management of “Karl”, I would recommend focusing the messaging on being a national chain with branches in Jerusalem and central Israel. In both cases, I would recommend emphasizing via all media that these are businesses that attach a very high importance to the “purple badge” guidelines, thereby conveying the message that they are “safe and protected”.
The writer is a business consultant
Yoram Grossman
Building Buffers and Reserves
Financial management, especially in the context of a business, demands experience and taking prudent financial decisions, including: working within the confines of an ongoing cash flow analysis, adapting credit limits to the needs of the business, paying attention to trends and features of the company’s sector, and working to limit unnecessary expenses through proper management of HR and stock. At the same time, take into consideration any difficulties or unexpected challenges—create buffers and financial reserves for a rainy day. When the company’s finances are properly managed, the owners have more time to turn their attention elsewhere, such as increasing growth, seeking new markets and streamlining. Proper management also helps a business in its work with financial institutions. There is no question that we are in the middle of unprecedented times, nothing like previous crises we have experienced. At the same time, however, we are seeing that businesses that are managed effectively also respond to changes and adapt themselves better—enabling them to cope better with the situation.
 
The writer is the manager of the Bnei Brak branch of Bank Hapoalim
As the economy continues to grapple with the outbreak of Covid-19, “Ma’ariv” and Bank Hapoalim are running a special feature, sharing and following stories of businesses in different regions and sectors and offering insight and support in coping with the current crisis and uncertainty. Every week, we will share practical tools, as well as offering insight and guidance into opportunities for financial and business development and growth in this challenging environment. Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the Israeli economy. More than ever, now is the time to buy local and support local businesses and providers, and restore the economy to an upward trajectory. The information contained herein is accurate as of the day of publication, and should not be understood as an alternative to professional consulting services that take into account the specific circumstances of the individual and are tailored to meet their needs.