Retail sales in Belgium dipped by 0.2% in January, on an annualised basis, after falling by 2.9% in December 2017, according to the European Union (EU) statistical office, Eurostat. In the EU as a whole, retail sales increased by 2.7%, while the increase in the euro zone was 2.3%.
The only other EU country whose retail sales contracted was Estonia (-0.9%).
The shrinking retail sales in Belgium are attributable to the increasing success of foreign webshops, says Mien Gillis, trade specialist at the Flemish employers association, Unizo. Belgians make more than half of their online purchases from foreign companies. In this regard, the composition of the three most popular webshops in Belgium speaks for itself. They are Amazon, Coolblue and Bol.com, three foreign sites.
Unizo feels these Internet gateways have an adverse effect on Belgium’s economy, mainly from the point of view of jobs and revenue generated by VAT. It is therefore calling for efforts to raise consumer awareness on the impact their consumption habits. “But there must also be a domestic supply and it must be noted that there is no Belgian Bol.com,” Ms. Gillis said.