Belgian retailers' online sales fell to 43% in 2022, having previously been at 70% in 2020, Unizo reports. In light of the results, the organisation for Belgium's self-employed has called for a European ban on free returns for online purchases.
Unizo's survey, which was released on Wednesday, revealed that these online sales had become an important part of retailers' business models, with over half of them (51%) taking to selling their products online.
The organisation's chief Danny Van Assche explained that "during the pandemic, massive numbers of independent retailers went in search of online sales, which gave local e-commerce a boost." However, "this is now partly flattening again," according to Van Assche, with Unizo's recent report also revealing that e-commerce only represented 5% of all retailers' sales.
Unizo's aim is to increase profits made from online sales in Belgium of independent businesses, with their report indicating that only four in 10 retailers gain a profit out of their e-commerce.
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One solution for the organisation would be to abolish the practice of free returns, which would weaken the grip of multinational corporations on the online sales market. "These foreign internet giants cause a massive amount of free returns, Van Assche argued, "which then produces large environmental and transport costs."
For Unizo, an EU ban on free returns would only significantly cut CO2 emissions, but would also provide a more equal playing field for independent Belgian firms.