August 22, 2011

Facelift and Name Change Will Not Bring Back Orthodox Consumers, Israeli Experts Say

Tel Aviv…How do you capture the Orthodox market while also currying favor with the most ardent secular Israelis? The Blue Square retail group thought that it had come up with a formula that would work even in a land where such accommodations have historically not worked. It had created the Shefa Shuk brand for the Charedi (Orthodox) market while branding its AM:PM store for the secularists who resented not having a supermarket to shop on the Shabbat. But Dudi Weissman’s Blue Square immediately encountered a boycott by the Charedim, not of AM:PM but of Shefa Shuk. Since 2008, Weissman has tried to appease the Orthodox leaders with such gestures as selling the chamets of AM:PM on Passover, but the boycott continued. The Orthodox would accept nothing less than the closure of the stores on Shabbat, which is for all practical purposes the national day of rest in deference to the holiest day of the week. The Shefa Shuk brand suffered enormously, with the chain being forced to close 30 of its 40 stores. So now Weissman is rebranding Shefa Shuk with the name Zol B'Shefa and new colors - red and black - rather than red and green. The move, say Israeli food officials, is unlikely to persuade Orthodox leaders and a new boycott announcement was expected. Interestingly, Weissman’s spin on the new brand again avoided addressing the resentment over AM:PM. Instead, he announced that the changes would include new pricing policy and a different product mix. One official told Kosher Today, “as bright as Weissman and his team are, they’ve probably violated every good retail principle.”