by Rebecca Borison
Most companies today are struggling to boost sales and make a profit. Some may try to broaden their customer base or find a niche product. And some have simply been banking on the ultra-Orthodox.
The New York Times recently published an article about a hat store in Spain that is funded mainly by Satmar Hassidim. The Fernández y Roche factory in Andalusia has been evading the Spanish economic crisis by raking in around $175 a hat from Hassidim in Brooklyn.
“They are saving us in the crisis,” said Miguel García Gutiérrez, the managing director of the Roche factory. “Our exports are rising for hats for Orthodox Jews.”
Satmar Hassidim in both Brooklyn and Jerusalem tend to purchase three types of Roche hats: Bent Up, Snap Brim and the Clergy. While each hat may just appear to be a simple black hat, for Hassidim, the slightest change could make all the difference.
And not only are the factories benefiting from this niche market–so are individual inspectors. Albert Ehrman travels to Spain every year to inspect the hats before they are brought to American stores. He spends hours measuring the hats to ensure that they have a “good, sharp edge.”
Betting on a slightly more obscure market, a new start-up company in Israel has been working on producing glasses that actually impair your vision. Why do such a ridiculous thing? So that haredim can avoid having to see inappropriately dressed women, of course.
According to Vos Iz Neis, the glasses blur the wearer’s vision so that he can’t see more than three feet away. To make sure the wearer can see where he’s walking, the glasses also have perforations at the bottom of the lenses so that the wearer can look down.
Now the obvious question is, what about haredim who already wear glasses? Not to worry. The company will also be selling blurrying stickers to apply to one’s normal glasses.
At $6 a pair, these glasses may not be making anyone a megamillionaire, but one has to give some credit to this start-up for creativity.
So what’s next–ear plugs that only block out a woman’s voice?