According to initial figures compared to data from the past year, many retailers reported a decline in shopping for three main reasons: Austerity measures implemented by the government, which reduced some workers' income and led to price hikes; people not being in the mood for shopping as many stood in long queues at gas mask distribution centers, and the High Holidays' proximity to Israeli schools' summer vacation.
The main factors affecting the decline in shopping were the increase in value added tax, rising fuel prices which led to an increase in the prices of many products, and 5-10% price hikes in some of the products purchased ahead of the holidays.
In addition, the salaries of public sector workers were cut by 1% (a move which will valid until December 2014), and in many workplaces there has been a drop in overtime payments and in different benefits.
Some workplaces have also saved on holiday gift vouchers for their employees compared to previous years, and hardly any workplace increased the gift vouchers' value despite the past year's price hikes.
"These austerity measures are negatively affecting people's mood and their desire to shop for the holiday. A sample of some 1,000 businesses points to a real decline in pre-holiday purchases this year," says Ezra Attia, director of the National Association for Commerce.
"The comparison was not conducted according to the month of September, but according to the month preceding the holidays, as last year most holidays took place in October and this year they all fall in September."
Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, told Yedioth Ahronoth over the weekend that retail stores were indeed experiencing a drop in holiday sales and that it could be the result of a combination of reasons, mainly the austerity measures.
Yet both Lynn and Attia believe that the decline in shopping can also be attributed to the fact that people standing in line for gas masks often feel uncomfortable or are not in the mood to buy shoes and clothes for the holiday at the same time.
According to Attia, many Israelis are concerned about their future financial situation when they will be required to pay additional income tax, as January 2014 sees the introduction of further austerity measures.
"People are afraid that their economic situation will get worse, and so they are saving on shopping on the eve of the holidays compared to previous years," he says.