Israeli food chains registered a 3% decline in sales in 2002 to a total of US$5.18bn, according to a report by Dan & Bradstreet.

The report, published by Maariv, notes that the decline in sales “does not necessarily express the profit or loss performance of the chains, especially in view of the many sales campaigns they carried.”

The number of employees in Israeli food chains in 2002, as compared with 2001, fell by 5.4% to 38,426, projecting efficiency measures undertaken by the chains.

Retail sales by the chains represent 17.1% of the total business activities in the trade sector. The study shows a long-term growth of 16% between 1998 and 2002, reaching a record performance in 2000, with 9.5% increase. The growth trend continued through 2001, albeit moderately, to only 4.4%, and in 2002, for the first time in several years, there has been a negative growth representing the “difficulties of the food retail sector.”

The survey places Supersol as the leading chain, with sales of $1.43bn, followed by the Blue Square chain, with sales of $1.17bn.

“The Israeli retail food sector has seen the strengthening position of private chains, especially ‘Tiv Ta’am’, which operates 8 branches with sales estimated at $190m.” In addition, the survey shows a trend by small chains focusing their marketing strategy on special niches, at the expense of the big chains.