December 29, 2008

Is it Passover Already?

It’s hard to believe, but Matzohs are already being baked for Passover, which is now little more than three months away. Yes, it’s early if you consider that in a leap year (like last year), Passover can fall at least two weeks later. People who are involved in the kosher food industry know that when Passover falls too early, like when it begins on the last day of March, people behave differently. One organizer of a Passover program in Miami swears that when it is early he does much better then when Pesach is late. “It’s just that people want the warm weather for the holiday and when it’s cold up North, my sales do much better. For retailers, an early Passover can mean a mad rush in the last few days before the holiday.

Jewish anti-poverty agencies are also looking at the calendar. They are predicting an unprecedented number of people who will be applying for assistance due to the ravages of the recession. Sure, they receive some donated food from benevolent purveyors, but they are also forced to buy many items and with prices being as high as they are and facing a shrinking charity dollar, they have good reason to be concerned.

Speaking of prices, the prospects are for prices to rise again this Passover, further taxing kosher consumers who have already been hit hard in the past year. But there are also many heroes in the kosher market who have been reluctant to pass along price increases. I have spoken to retailers who told me “How can I raise prices when my customers are struggling.” There are stores that are somehow putting together a promotions program that still allows customers to secure bargains. And what about manufacturers who are silently absorbing some of the price increases for raw materials?

Every time I write about increased prices and the recession, there is always someone who challenges me with “No, I am not raising prices.” So if it seems that I am on to Passover a bit early, maybe it’s because I was just looking for an opportunity to shower some accolades on a group of very deserving people.