In the fourth week of the January sales, traders have warned about the disappointing results, according to Dominique Michel, head of the Belgian Federation of Trade and Services (Comeos). Appearing on RTL Info, the CEO said that the sales were "not really going very well" this year.
"It’s not a disaster either, but it rained and that directly cools off the consumer," he noted. "We are going to have a very average period compared to previous sales."
According to Comeos, 80% of traders questioned as part of a survey stated that they will not reach the sales numbers reached last year. “For the large chains it is perhaps less serious,” Michel noted. "But there is a slowdown which is due to bad weather and also due to digital sales. We know that since Covid there has been an explosion of online purchases.
Belgian e-commerce grew by around 13% in the first eight months of 2022, according to data from sector interest group BeCommerce. There are now more than 50,000 online stores registered in Belgium. In the third quarter of 2022, Belgians spent €3.6 billion online.
Anti-Covid-19 measures forced Belgian customers to revise their shopping habits, with many moving online. Several years later, many are reluctant to bring their shopping back to the high street. "Clearly, we buy a lot more online now than in 2019," Michel said.
The increase in popularity of sales events at other times in the year, such as Black Friday shortly before the Christmas shopping period, have made January sales less attractive to the customer. Sales are no longer a rare occurrence, as they once were.
"The trader tries to keep his business alive, to get people to come to him, so maybe there are a little too many sales that accumulate one after the other," the industry boss admitted.
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Understandably, with economists warning of a mild impending recession in Belgium in 2023, customers are also tightening their belts in January. High energy costs, inflation, and reduced household finances mean that Belgian stores now receive a smaller, more segmented portfolio of customers.
"There is an explosion in energy costs, even if it is said that they will decrease," the CEO said, noting that these costs also jeopardise the future of many stores, as well as jobs in the sector.