The summer sales in Belgium start tomorrow, one month after they normally would, but under even more strict restrictions than would have been the case a month ago.
The delay was decided on because of the coronavirus situation at the time, with the month’s wait aimed at allowing the health situation to improve, as well as to allow shops – which were closed from 13 March until 11 May – more time to prepare themselves.
But since then the situation has changed once more, and the expected positive evolution of the epidemic has appeared and then disappeared again.
Be that as it may, the shops will tomorrow open for the month-long sales period with some experience of the restrictions in place until recently, in the hope of being able to adapt to the latest restrictions imposed by the national security council earlier this week.
Those include the wearing of face masks in all shops and, according to local statutes, in some shopping streets. Customers must shop alone, doing away with what is locally known as ‘funshopping’ – when several friends ‘do the sales’ together. The exceptions to that rule concern accompanying children, or people who require assistance.
And shoppers are limited to a maximum of 30 minutes in any one shop, which may not suit those who are hard to please, but will be some relief to those forced to queue outside.
One retailer told RTL, “I’m afraid this will put a brake on customers because the purpose of the sales is really that: go for a stroll, take your time, be with friends and with family.”
Meanwhile, for anyone planning on making a shopping trip to the big city, the free railway ticket offered by the government has had its validity postponed for a month to avoid over-full trains.
There is some good news, however. Many shops, having been left with more stock that usual thanks to the two-month closure and the reluctance of many people to visit shopping centres since stores opened up, are now offering major discounts from the start.
“Retailers hope that these August sales will make up for some of the losses caused by their compulsory closure due to health measures,” said Clarisse Ramackers director of the research department of UCM, the organisation that represents small businesses.
“One in two have announced they will make reductions of 50% straight away. That’s unheard of,” she said.