Retailers are less than optimistic about the annual winter sales, which start on Monday, and, according to a poll conducted by the Syndicat neutre des Indépendants (SNI), more than half of the 820 respondents expect a 10% drop in turnover this month compared to January 2020.
About 70% had at least half of their stock left over, and many said they still had 60% and even 80% on their hands, noted the SNI, which represents small businesses and independents. The union called on the authorities to lift “very quickly” the existing ban on shopping in pairs.
The SNI fears that the considerable amount of leftover stock will lead to a price war in a sector in which profit margins are already very narrow and businesses need liquidity more than ever.
Limiting store time per customer to 30 minutes and the requirement to shop alone are also a heavy financial blow for businesses. “The sales are often a moment of collective “buying pleasure”, which is no longer possible for the moment, so we are asking the Government to authorise shopping in pairs everywhere” the union stressed. “The encouraging drop in infection rates also allows this.”
The SNI noted that Belgium needed to avoid repeating the mistake made in August, when “the sales turned out to be a disaster since having to shop alone did not encourage consumers to go shopping.” Otherwise, the winter sales risk missing their target completely and being a new flop for businesses, the union warned.
“If we wish to stem the wave of bankruptcies, customers will have to keep coming into the stores as much as possible; stores are safer than many other places,” added the union.
It also encouraged customers to keep buying local.