As prices are significantly increasing amidst high inflation, citizens living near Belgium’s borders often head into neighbouring countries to save money on shopping, which experts believe is taking its toll on the Belgian economy.
Border shopping’ is more popular than ever, according to retail expert Jorg Snoeck. As inflation is hitting consumers’ wallets, the perception that life abroad is up to 10% cheaper drives people across the border, Snoeck told Het Laatste Nieuws. “I expect that the shortage of raw materials due to the war in Ukraine will increase the phenomenon of border shopping in the autumn. That will drive prices up further.”
Where to buy what
“A country can be cheap for some products, but expensive for others,” Stoeck adds. In the Netherlands, products like pampers, dairy, electronics and coffee are cheaper, but meat products have higher prices and lower quality.
In France, on the other hand, meat, wine and cosmetics are more affordable and better, while it’s better to avoid do-it-yourself products, vegetables and fruit. In Germany, you can save on electronics, detergents, bicycles and clothing, but soft drinks and bottled water are more expensive, while Luxembourg is the place to buy cheap spirits, cigarettes and fuel.
However, experts are keen to highlight that border shopping also damages the Belgian economy. Trade federation Comeos calculated that it costs the country €2,65 billion per year and that it is at the expense of 15,000 jobs.
While certain products may be cheaper abroad, others cost more than in Belgium. “As a result, the advantage of border shopping for your weekly purchases is minimal,” Snoeck said. However, it starts to pay off if you buy products that are cheaper abroad and stock them in large quantities, so you don’t need to cross the border as often.
It would also work by “checking the foreign online shops because their prices are often slightly lower than in physical stores. And avoid tourist centres, where prices are usually higher. For example, rather go shopping in Roosendaal than in Sluis.”
Meanwhile, Dutch companies such as Jumbo and Albert Heijn are bringing prices in Belgium down, as Belgian warehouses need to keep competing with cheaper offers from across the border. “Because they are active worldwide, they can buy cheaply themselves, which means they can keep their prices very low. The other chains follow,” Snoeck explains.
“However, a comparative market survey showed that Colruyt, which is mainly active in Belgium, is not necessarily more expensive than supermarkets abroad,” he adds.