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Surveys show mixed reactions to start of summer sales period

Illustration picture shows the official start of the reported summer sales period, in Brussels. (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)
06:17 05/07/2021

The summer sales officially started on 1 July in Belgium and while reactions were mixed, surveys showed that traders enjoyed a 10% increase in business in comparison to the corresponding opening weekend in summer 2020 despite a slow start to shopping.

The surveys were conducted by the SNI and UCM trade unions which represent small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and the self-employed.

The SNI noted that the most business was done in malls in city centres on Saturday, with many customers queuing to get the first bargains in a further sign that the union says shows a tentative return to shopping with confidence.

"Too many retailers have experienced a terrible spring, but we have noticed a turnaround that began just before the sales,” the union said in a statement released with its survey results. “Consumers have clearly found their way back to the shops."

According to the SNI survey, 28% of retailers expect to sell as much as last year during this sales period, 67% expect sales to increase and only 5% expect a decline.

However, the UCM did not share the SNI’s enthusiasm in its report. "Overall, traders were hoping for more sales on this first Saturday and remain cautious," the UCM statement read, citing a contrasting situation between the Brussels-Capital region and Wallonia and reporting sales figures to be down compared to 2019 but up compared to a year ago.

The UCM said it was too early to welcome the return of "shopping for pleasure" with many traders expressing a belief that customers are still hesitating between devoting a budget to shopping and perhaps going on holiday. The evolution of the health situation in popular destinations in the Mediterranean for example could, in this respect, be decisive, according to the UCM.

In Wallonia and Brussels, the vast majority of traders surveyed by the UCM opened the weekend with reductions of -30%, although a few isolated cases have already opted for -70% with many eager to reduce the large quantities of stock they have in reserve. However, some traders said that they would have preferred more time between the easing of restrictions and the start of the sales to allow them more time to sell items at full price.

According to the UCM survey, one in five traders believe that they still need financial help from the government of between €5,000 and €10,000 to recover from the crisis.

Written by Nick Amies