The food price war in Beit Shemesh is hotting up, with the flames now being fanned by rabbis in the town. In the past week or so, notices have appeared throughout the town bearing the headline "Severe Warning", and calling on residents not to patronize the Osher Ad supermarket branch in Bet Shemesh, despite it being controlled by haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) Avraham Moshe Margaliot and Arye Laniado, who belong to the Ger hasidic sect. "Great depravity prevails in this place, and there is terrible spiritual danger from forbidden sights and other frightening stumbling blocks, may God preserve us, with incalculable consequences. We therefore hereby issue a severe warning not to go there!" the notice states.
Five rabbis - Yehoshua Rosenberger, Nosson Hacohen Kopschitz, Moshe Tuvia Dinkel, Shlomo Zalman Perlstein, and Mordechai Goldstein - are the signatories on the notice, and warn against advertising the Osher Ad branch. "Everyone has the obligation to warn his household, and to keep a watchful eye on them, and it goes without saying that it is forbidden to give any publicity to this place," the notice states.
Following publication of the notice, Osher Ad cancelled advertisements scheduled for last weekend in locally distributed leaflets and newspapers. Sources in the supermarket chain said that for the same reason no advertisements would be published over the coming weekend.
"We didn't want to place people in a position of conflict, and we have no intention of sending advertisements this week either," the sources told "Globes". "This whole group is deluded and irrelevant. Go to Jerusalem, to the Geula neighborhood, and you'll find 10-15 such warnings there every day. They are same lot who have come to live in Beit Shemesh as well. This isn't the haredi community, this is the Jerusalemites, and they are the ones who caused all the commotion with the spitting on the little girl in Beit Shemesh. It's the same kind of people."
The cause of the escalation in the attitude of the rabbis towards Osher Ad is the chain's decision to remove a sign that had been placed at the supermarket when it opened three weeks ago requesting women to come modestly dressed.
At the same time, the battle between Shufersal Ltd. (TASE:SAE) and Osher Ad and other supermarket chains in the town has grown sharper, with Shufersal cutting prices further this week.
"We are adjusting prices, and checking all the stores in the area," sources at Shufersal told us. "We won't let ourselves become uncompetitive. Whatever they do, we will do too. We have a working mechanism. There is no way that we will be caught dearer. On the contrary, we can only be caught being cheaper."
At present, these battles are helping Shufersal's sales, and the chain's branches in Beit Shemesh and in Ma'aleh Adumim, another place where competition has become fierce, are posting higher turnover, although market sources estimate that these branches are operating unprofitably.
Meanwhile, yesterday evening, Antitrust Authority director Prof. David Gilo confirmed the "Globes" report that the Authority had opened an investigation into whether Shufersal was operating a predatory pricing policy. However, in an interview with "Globes" editor in chief Hagai Golan, Gilo said, "One has to be very careful before intervening in conduct that lowers prices. It could be that what is happening in these markets is that there is fierce, but healthy, competition."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 21, 2012
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