Friday, May 27, 2016

Daniella Lehavi and Luxury Shopping in Tel Aviv

Daniella Lehavi is a well established luxury leather accessory brand in Israel, bags after shopping, Givatay'im May 2016

Tel Aviv is trying desperately to lure local luxury item shoppers. But with cheap travel to Europe and plenty of imported global branded items, the job is a tough one. Israeli designers have tried to establish a local luxury market for years, yet many fail. One success story is Daniella Lehavi [site here]. Still a relatively small retail chain with ten shops in central Israel. The shops are small boutiques with a few selected items from each category. The site and catalog show many more items available. The luxury accessory shoppers don't mind small boutiques, they happily support them. With the growth of mall shopping, essentially making them the primary shopping destination in Israel, Lehavi is taking advantage of the exposure. Israelis are not living the luxury lifestyle yet, but when they get there, Lehavi is happy to offer them local leather accessories.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spending Less on Israel's Independence Day Cellebrations

Fireworks may be the last holdout of government spending in independence day celebration, Israelis prefer government spending on more practical and realistic social programs

Israelis want local and state government to spend less on independence day celebrations. The days of soviet style military parades and folk dancing in public squares are long lost memories. Most Israelis today remember the patriotic showmanship as children or stories from old relatives. Israel is no longer the state of patriotic struggles and socialist idealism. The issue of independence day celebration is even rearing it's head in the political discussions. Just two days ago, Ha'Aretz, Israel's mainstream daily, reported on a comment made by Benyamin Netanyahu, the somewhat misunderstood prime minister. According to a short article, Netanyahu commented on this year's celebrations and reminisced on the military parades of his youth. Apparently the newspaper decided to spin the story as his desire to "bring back" military parades. Realistically, most Israelis take this kind of reporting as political jabs. The days of parading tanks and marching soldiers are faded memories. Yet these stories, truthful, honest or fictional, still make the headlines. It is a sign of changes in the Israeli press, a sign of not only ridicule in the face of out of touch government. While Netanyahu's perspective of Israel as a regional military and economic powerhouse fits well with optimism, his comments on showing power as a sign of strength seems to be taken as a joke. That is a change in attitude, maybe for the better. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cracking Down on Electric Bicycles

A 250 shekel fine imposed on bicycle riding on Tel Aviv sidewalks - Ibn Gvirol at Arlozorov, April 2016
Police in Tel Aviv now stop and fine electric bicycle riders on city sidewalks. On a few main streets, I have seen police officers stop riders. This seems to be happening on large streets with narrow sidewalks (Derech Ha'shalom into Tel Aviv, Ibn Gvirol Street). On streets in Givatay'im in early afternoon when high school children ride in packs through commercial streets (Katzenelson and Waitzman Streets). Besides terrorizing pedestrians on busy commercial streets, an accident can cause real trauma. Up to now accidents caused a few bruzed muscles and broken bones. But as more bikers ride on sidewalks, the inevitable serious accident it just a matter of when not if.
The electric bicycle trend has taken Tel Aviv by storm. At first electric bicycles were a curiosity, maybe another alternative transportation mode in a city with chronic parking shortage and commute time grid lock are an annoyance for years. But the electrified models came at a time where government efforts to introduce more bicycling seemed like a good idea. Tel Aviv introduced a bicycling rental by the hour program. Copying London's program, a resident can sign up for a yearly pass and pay 280 shekels (see city bicycling rental page, HE). The Tel-O-Fun program is adding a few biking enthusiasts to Tel Aviv streets, but seems more of a publicity effort than a real transportation solution. There is talk about adding bicycle lanes, but besides bicycle traffic lights along the beach path, to me this seems like a long term political babble. So if you come to Tel Aviv, and see "everyone" biking on sidewalks. Look for the marked bike paths. Or give the police a story how in London and Amsterdam bikes and pedestrians have equal rights. It could get you off a 250 shekel fine (about US$ 62.50). Otherwise just ride the streets and as they say "be careful out there!"

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Weekend Life in Startup City (Tel Aviv and Surroundings)

Israelis are constantly looking to balance intense work schedule with family life

Israel's intense startup life takes a break on the Sabbath. Family life takes back seat during the week, but on weekends (Friday and Saturday) the pendulum swings a bit to the side of leisure. Some see this weekly break as a way to compensate for the intense focus on work. There is a bit on nostalgia in Israel for days where family and especially children where the focus of attention. These nostalgic feelings seem to come from parents who grew up in simpler times here. Israel's meteoric technological and economic progress, going on for decades now, has changed many basic family lifestyle habits. With higher expenses and much larger economy, demands on personal time have gone up. To some older Israelis this change is alarming. But younger Israelis make the choice to focus on work rather than family willingly. Israelis have a perspective on a shift in focus from one generation to the next. While some younger Israelis are nostalgic, others put up with change. This means putting more into children's events. The "birthday party in the park" with "activities" - is one sign of the changing times.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Investing in "Lifestyle": Showing Up Everywhere

Flowers, trees, public bicycles and cleaner streets are a big part of local government spending today

Israel's focus on domestic lifestyle growth is slowly showing signs of life. In the past few years, Israel's perspective of urban lifestyle became a focus point. While government and private organizations were not as keen on investing in local lifestyle in the past, attitudes toward living standards have changed. The average Israeli's street view is changing for the better. Streets are cleaner, renovated where needed and even policed more frequently. To me it seems as if local government is taking outdoor life more seriously. Following the example of cities around the world, streets, parks and public spaces are cleaner, better maintained and more comfortable. There is a hidden story here. I think it relates to the change of attitude toward the hard criticism of government policies the last few years. This type of writing is best done by political writers, especially in mainstream media outlets (newspapers, TV). Yet here is my take on things:

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Spring in Israel (2016 season)

Anat in front of flowering tree in Givatayim.
Spring this year arrived early. After a few rainy days, higher temperatures and clear sunny days quickly reminded us of where we live. In New England after hard winters the say "if you can stand the winter, you deserve the summer". Here they should say the opposite: "if you can stand the summer, you deserve the spring". Spring brings clear days and cool evenings. Flowers burst out after the last winter rains. Somehow this year it seems like the flowers are blooming all at once. The last two weeks it's been a feast for the eyes and the nose. If you come to visit Tel Aviv in the spring, go to where the flowers are blooming. In Tel Aviv there are a few "green" streets where the blooms are glorious. Enjoy the spring, the summer will surely push a few of us hot and bothered.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Shopping Still Strong in Israel

Givatay'im mall at a quiet weekday morning. Shopping at a street level has actually increased recently.

Israel somehow averted the global downturn of 2008. This makes for over two decades of steady growth (see Bank of Israel statistic). Some attribute this to the cautious Israeli bank lending policies. The average Israeli who wants to qualify for a mortgage needs to show ability to pay off a loan more convincingly than in other countries. Certainly more than in the US (see the recent movie "The Big Short") even after the sub-prime Wall Street fiasco. Some attribute the strong economy to fast move into new technology start-up sectors and security (i.e. military, internet cyber) sectors. Either way, the Israeli economy is growing steadily. This puts pressure on consumer sectors. The building industry has been suffering for years from slow growth and new home prices continue to see inflation year after year (2015 home prices in Tel Aviv increased by 8%). The state (in making land available), builders (due to labor shortage) and even banks are not "building" enough new housing. Demand is simply growing much faster than supply.