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Israel Launches First Co-op Supermarket

By Yuval Avivi, Al Monitor

On the morning of April 14, less than 12 hours before the traditional Passover holiday dinner, a quick visit to a supermarket called Shelanu (Hebrew for “Ours”) in the east Bitzaron neighborhood of Tel Aviv reveals little activity. The few shoppers move lethargically among the aisles. Not a single one of them, by the way, is one of 500 members who each paid 1,000 shekels ($290) to join the social-economic cooperative founded at the end of 2011, because it has yet to start an intensive membership drive.

Not far from there, at a huge chain supermarket, it’s mayhem: carts laden with produce roll through the massive parking lot, sometimes more than one cart to a customer. Israelis have not yet changed their consumption habits, despite their anger at the large retail chains. They refuse to stop buying there, not even on “Supermarket Free Day” declared this year on April 1.

A comparison between the large markets and the cooperative Shelanu store is like comparing a Chihuahua to a Great Dane. Shelanu takes up only 160 square meters (191 square yards), while the large chain stores are spread out over about 5,000 square meters (5,980 square yards). Some of them offer as many as 20,000 different products, an order of magnitude more than the number offered by Shelanu.

At the cooperative store, no one seems bothered by the quiet Monday. A worker said, “Sunday was actually the store’s best day since it opened this past January — four and a half times better than an average day, and three times better than an average Friday. But our aim is not to reach massive sales. The nature of the shopping here is different, and the customers are different. The small number of products and the inclusion of small manufacturers is an advantage, not a disadvantage. The aim is to raise awareness of our set of values.”Read More

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