Haredi consumers are not, by and large, part of Israel’s social protest movement, but their shopping savvy, it turns out, according to Globes, is evolving constantly.
“The Haredi consumer pays less for the same product” as his or her non-Haredi counterpart, says Ronen Gross, host of a daily show on finance titled “Mamonot” on the Radio Kol Chai station. This is because commercial vendors speak to Haredi consumers “at pocket level.”
Gross says that the Haredi consumer “examines with a microscope the price of each item, and has no problem skipping from one supermarket to another if they knows the same product is cheaper there. Every shekel is calculated.”
Gross argues that the fact that the Haredi consumer prefers to sign checks using the Hebrew date, in the end the Jewish holidays guide their decision on when to buy a new product and when it is discouraged by Jewish tradition to do so.
During periods in which tradition demands a particularly sober and restrained behavior, in memory of past troubles, Haredi consumers purchase mostly just basic goods.
“The Jewish calendar leads the Haredi pocket,” says Gross, commenting that “In general, the first priority is not money, but values and faith.”
But other elements in the Haredi sector insist that the consumption habits of the ultra-Orthodox society are starting to resemble those of secular society. Haredim take a vacation once a year, buy brand names and drink quality wine.
Yaakov Stern, CEO of Haredi ad agency “Meimad,” told Globes: “There is something new under the Shtreimel. The Haredi sector is dynamic, it isn’t not stagnant and it isn’t shut off in the past, as is commonly believed. Global trends do not skip it. The Haredi world is changing and its consumer behavior evolves constantly.”
Stern added that despite the stigmas attached to them, “the average Haredi is not just looking for cheap prices. They are aware of and consume brand name products, and will not compromise on quality.”
According to accounting firm BDO Ziv-Haft, the purchasing power of the ultra-Orthodox sector, which constitutes 11.3% of Israel’s population, is estimated at 10.5 billion shekel, or $2.6 billion per annum. With such buying power, it’s no wonder that commercial companies have been investing considerable resources and strategic efforts in the Haredi consumer in recent years.
Stern told Globes that Haredi consumers trust their newspapers, and so print ads yield good results. But some argue that the best Haredi promotion is still “AAA”—acronym for Isha Achat Amrah—This woman told me, meaning word of mouth.
But according to Stern, despite those quaint assertions, the Haredi advertising market rolls $184 million annually, reflecting an increase of 12.5% compared with 2010.
No one beats the Haredi consumer for brand loyalty, even if said brand is more expensive that newer alternatives. In 2010, the newspaper Ha’Mevaser published a survey showing that 38% of Haredi consumers said they prefer Coca Cola as their soft drink. Only 8% said they prefer a cheaper brand.
And 68% preferred the well established brand Osem for their snacks, compared with 18% that went with a cheaper brand.
Retailers agree the Haredi consumer is evolving. Avishai Fadlon, owner of apparel store “El Nino” in prestigious Herzliya, told Globes that “Haredim still buy white shirts, but the symbol on the shirt, the brand, has become important. If three years ago they would have bought three shirts for 100 shekels, today many are willing to pay 300 shekels for one name brand shirt.”
Doreen Trotzmn – Baruch, owner of the wig brand “Doreen wigs,” asserts that “in the past two years, awareness of quality wig which are more expensive has increased. Today, Women are willing to spend on a wig from 6,000 ($1,500) to 12,000 shekel ($3,000), and replace it every year or two, based on fashion, which was not the case five years ago.”
Haredi consumer savvy is reflected in the search for different ways to reduce the cost of goods, by joining clubs and organizing on a community basis.
“Every Haredi community Tzedaka Gabais, social activists, if you will, who obtain consumer goods, especially food, at good prices, by buying directly from the manufacturer,” Chaim Kliger, chief marketing officer for the newspaper Hamevaser and presenter of the “Friday Night” program on Radio Kol Chai, told Globes.
Kliger says you can always find classified ads that read: “Next week there will be a sale of meat,” and then “a truck will arrive at a particular location, where the driver will sell the reduced price products. Many come by and save as much as 30%,” Kliger says, adding, “this selling method is in high gear before the holidays.”
Another way to buy cheaply is offered by the “TaTim,” the Tomchay Torah – supporters of Torah organizations. According to Kliger, “these are organizations of yeshiva students who manage to obtain clothing and footwear for their fellow yeshiva students, especially young men who are about to get married, at cheap rates of as much as 40% below store prices. Before the holidays it becomes a whole industry.”
The “Chinese auctions,” so popular in Orthodox communities in the U.S., have found their way to Israel, too. These are sales fairs, organized by various charity organizations, which raffle off electric appliances, furniture and baby products.
According to Globes, Israeli Haredim remain frugal in one notable area: vacation. Only 10.9% of the Haredi population have opted to travel abroad for their vacations in 2010, compared with 47% who vacationed in Israel. At the same period, 43.6% of secular Israelis vacationed abroad, and 59.8% vacationed in Israel.