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Retailers optimistic as summer sales begin

13:53 03/07/2023

A beleaguered retail sector is feeling more optimistic about summer sales figures after a tough several years, particularly as a result of the pandemic.

Only three out of 10 retailers expect to sell less during the summer sales than in previous years, compared with 48.7% last year, according to the latest survey by the self-employed union UCM.

The optimism contrasts with the first half of the year, when almost half of independent retailers said that their sales had fallen over the past six months.

About 40% of traders have more stock than usual, compared with almost 50% he previous year, a situation explained by “retailers' anticipation with regard to stock management”, as well as by external factors such as “the energy crisis and supply delays”, according to the federation.

In order to sell off their stocks beyond the legal sales periods, 37% of retailers have introduced promotions and joint offers from the beginning of June, compared to 51.4% last year.

The number of retailers who decided not to take part in the sales has risen from 10.3% in 2022 to 18.8% this year.

In contrast to last year, when discounts were higher from the outset, retailers will start the reductions at 30%, “a more traditional percentage”, noted the UCM.

The survey also highlighted changes in payment methods in local shops: debit cards are accepted in 90% of shops, while more than half of retailers also offer payment by smartphone.

“Electronic payment has become a matter of course”, the union said, with three quarters of those questioned stating that electronic payments now account for the majority of transactions.

Le Soir reports that customers can still expect to find good deals, albeit less generous ones than before: both the UCM and the SNI union are expecting standard discounts of 30% in the first week, then 50% in the second and up to 60-70% at the end of the period, with the summer sales period legally ending on 31 July.

“The climate is much more optimistic for small independent retailers,” Christophe Wambersie, general secretary of the SNI for Brussels and Wallonia, told Le Soir.

“Nearly 50% of those we surveyed say that the sales will not be crucial for ensuring a successful year overall, as they did in January when consumers bought less because of inflation. Here, retailers are already satisfied with their season. The sales will just be a bonus for clearing out their unsold stock.”

Isabelle Morgante, spokeswoman for the UCM, said retailers “will still be able to replenish their cashflow, which has been hit by the rise in energy prices and by local constraints such as roadworks”.

The SNI said that this summer sales period should be a good one, thanks to a combination of favourable factors: lower energy prices, a calmer economic climate that is easing the pressure on the wallet, very mild weather that is encouraging people to treat themselves to light clothing, an increase in holiday bookings that is encouraging people to buy clothes in advance, and the first day of the sales falling on a Saturday this year.

Written by Helen Lyons