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More empty shops than ever before in Brussels and Belgium
The number of empty retail spaces in Belgium continues to rise, a trend that hasn’t changed over the past 12 years. At this point, 11.2% of shop spaces are empty, an all-time high. And the increase of nearly 1% seen last year is the highest ever recorded.
The figure comes from Locatus, a research and analysis bureau for the retail sector in the Benelux. The firm began monitoring Belgium’s empty retail spaces in 2008, when it was just over 5%. It has more than doubled since then.
Across the Brussels region, Locatus counts 2,570 empty shops, double the number of eight years ago. According to Locatus, there are several factors that have contributed to so many small retailers going out of business.
Internet sales has obviously had a great effect on all brick-and-mortar shops, even larger chains. Locatus saw that the retailers with the most competition online closed in the greatest numbers.
Antiques hardest hit by internet sales
Antiques, second-hand and art sellers closed up shop at a greater rate than any other sector as these items are now often placed online directly by sellers. This sector has been the hardest hit by internet sales by far. Other retail sectors that are disappearing due to internet competition are appliance and electronics, sports gear and shoes.
Larger shopping centres and chains popping up outside of city centres are the next biggest reason for shops closing down. Interestingly, while more retail shops were abandoned last year than ever before, the square metres devoted to retail increased by 300,000 across the country. That’s because major chains and shopping centres on the edge of cities are booming.
In Brussels, Locatus also sees an aging population, with pensioners having less disposable income.
The huge shopping and leisure centre planned for Heysel, called Neo, could have a further impact on smaller retailers in the capital. “We’ll see if the majority of visitors to Neo are from inside or outside of Brussels,” a Locatus spokesperson told Bruzz. “If most of them come from a distance, it has a small impact everywhere. But if they mostly come from Brussels, it has a much larger impact on Brussels. In any case, Belgians are not going to go back to buying goods in small businesses.”
Photo: Herwif Vergult/BELGA