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Brazilian footwear specialist chooses Wallonia for northern expansion
Samba, sun and soccer may not be the first things that spring to mind when you think of Wallonia. But a little piece of Brazil has settled in Belgium, after the São Paulo-based footwear maker Alpargatas chose Liège as its newest European base. It became the first occupant of a warehouse at the Trilogiport platform, in the north of the city, in October.
The company behind Havaïanas sandals began a European expansion in 2008 and already has a southern base in Marseille. When searching for a northern spot, the company looked at the Netherlands and northern France. But in the end, it plumped for Wallonia. It was the location that won it.
“Liège is in the heart of Europe – it’s a city that is extremely privileged in its geographical situation,” says Hervé Pinot, Alpargatas’ general manager in western Europe. “It gives us the opportunity to deliver to all of our customers in northern France, in the UK, Benelux, Germany and the Scandinavian countries,” he says.
Wallonia’s location makes it a logistic hotspot, according to a study by property agents Cushman & Wakefield. The multi-platform Trilogiport is selling itself as a leading trading area as a result; it has 56 million inhabitants in a radius of 250km, while more than 60% of European purchasing power is within 500km.
While the location may be a draw, that’s not the only reason Alpargatas decided to set up at the Trilogiport. “The quality and density of the infrastructures has also been very important in our choice – we will be able to quickly supply outlets in northern Europe,” Pinot explains.
The partnership was agreed between the Brazilian company, the port, the Walloon Export and Investment Agency (AWEX), logistics company Tempo Log Belgium and WDP, a player in the Benelux logistics property market. Tempo Log Belgium, the Belgian subsidiary of the French logistics provider Tempo One, will oversee the expansion at the Trilogiport.
Opened in 2015 after three years of construction, Trilogiport is a water-rail-road platform that allows boats of up to 9,000 tons to pass through its opening, and is connected to the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Dunkirk. As well as the warehouses, there is also a tertiary service area and an environmental integration zone on site.
“The environmental dimension is part of the values of Alpargatas and is essential to us,” says Roderic van Praet d’Amerloo, operations director at Alpargatas EMEA.
With factories in Brazil and Argentina, 580 stores around the world and exports to 106 countries, any potential to cut costs for Alpargatas while expanding is also clearly a draw. “What costs us the most, economically and ecologically, is transport,” he says.
This article first appeared in WAB (Wallonia and Brusssels) magazine