Local kosher shops struggle to compete

By Jonathan Kalmus, Jessica Elgot and Stephanie Brickman, March 18, 2010

Among the shoppers at Haber's World kosher store in Prestwich, Manchester, on Sunday, Jennifer Forman from Altrincham had already sorted one major element of her Pesach provisions. "I've got a houseful of the 29p [Tesco] matzahs, but mostly I've tried to buy in the Jewish shops. I want them to carry on. Things seem cheaper than normal."

Whitefield grandfather Geoffrey Reynolds said he had bought both from supermarkets and kosher outlets. "There is better variety at the kosher shops and we always come out to support them."

Prestwich mum Karen Solomon had found some good wine deals at supermarkets and liked to buy Israeli products as a demonstration of support, "especially with the problems of boycotts".

Store manager Dovid Kaufman said that with a more favourable exchange rate to the dollar than this time last year, "we have been getting products from America at cheaper prices. Any prices that have come down are passed on to customers."

In Leeds, Maurice Sorkin, owner of Myer's Famous Kosherie, said Pesach trade was key to the survival of kosher retailers."We are fighting the supermarkets to stay open. We haven't lost business so far, but we will over the next two weeks. Tesco are more aggressive than ever before. All I would say to people doing their Pesach shopping is we are here for the Jewish community in Leeds all hours, 52 weeks a year. Tesco are only here for two."

Browsing the shelves, Gillian Brown said: "I don't do much Pesach shopping but I will always buy my matzahs here if I can. I suppose I might pick up a box if I was in the supermarket anyway, but supermarkets are such a vile experience."

At Glasgow's Mark's Deli, proprietor Mark Cohen said that supermarket competition was not damaging as they could not match a kosher deli on range of products. He claimed that beyond the loss leaders, many Pesach items retailed by the major players were more expensive. "My customers are intelligent enough to work out that it's not cheaper overall and they're also loyal to the place they shop all year round."

‘I can’t afford it’

Single mum Rachel, 37, says she “lost everything” after her divorce three years ago. At one point, she was homeless for six months with her daughter. She now has a home and job but attributes her survival to the support of the Gift charity.

“Pesach is so unaffordable it’s upsetting,” she said. “I am kosher so cope most of the rest of the year with vegetarian food to afford it. But during Pesach it’s astronomical.
“The worst thing is I couldn’t have people over for Seder because I’d nothing to offer — and when I went to others, I had nothing to take with.

“Gift have given me Pesach boxes filled with items. By helping me, they allowed me to do Pesach. I could go over to someone else without feeling ashamed.”

Last updated: 3:45pm, March 18 2010