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JBC, Decathlon and Proximus extend shop closure to weekdays

17:23 16/03/2020

Belgian fashion chain JBC, sports retailer Decathlon and telecoms provider Proximus have decided to shut their retail outlets seven days a week and not just in the weekend, as currently required by measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. “The virus doesn’t just spread in the weekends,” said Bart Claes, CEO of JBC.

Last Thursday, the federal government announced a raft of measures to halt the spread of Covid-19. While restaurants, bars and cultural venues must shut completely up to and including 3 April, retailers must only be closed in the weekend.

But JBC and Proximus have taken the decision to shut their doors seven days a week until at least 3 April. “When I hear how fast this virus is spreading and that everyone must do their part to combat it,” said Claes, “then I find that we, as a company that is run by and for Belgian families, have to act responsibly.”

JBC has about 120 outlets in Belgium and shut all of them at 13.00 today. Not only does this allow personnel to stay at home, it stops customers gathering in the store. “This is how we will support the call to stay at home and avoid physical contact,” said Claes. Currently, the JBC webshop is still operational.

Decathlon has also closed all of its stores until 3 April. Customers can still order online. A new system is being introduced that will allow customers to pick up online orders from a Decathlon store in safe conditions.

"For the health of our employees and customers, we have decided to close," a Decathlon spokesman said. "We don't want the virus to be able to spread through our stores."

Hair dresser calls on salons to close

Proximus, meanwhile, is closing its 100 or so shops, which sell its subscription packages as well as phones and related products. It will also send out workers to fewer calls, while continuing to respond to urgent repairs. Customers can still contact the company via chat and telephone.

Shoe retailer Torfs has also decided to close its outlets, including its subsidiary Athlete’s Foot, all week as well. The CEO said the company would review the situation at the end of this week.

Finally, several hair salons, which are also only being asked to close in the weekends, are closing all week voluntarily. And none of them have the overhead of the big chains.

“I’ve been thinking about it for the last week,” Fabrice Corbanie told Het Nieuwsblad. The hair dresser from Deerlijk in West Flanders has decided to close entirely until long past 3 April. “The government is asking us to keep a distance from each other, but obviously you can’t do that in my line of work.”

Deerlijk is tiny, so Corbanie sees clients of all ages. “I do not want to be responsible for the death of one of my customers,” he said.

To that end, he is asking all hair salons to take the same decision. “People are beginning to wake up to this,” he said. “If everyone follows the same guidelines, the consequences will be much less serious.”

Photo: Eric Lalmand/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw