Supermarket chain Delhaize has announced it is to leave its headquarters in Molenbeek in Brussels to move to premises in Kobbegem in Flemish Brabant, a property owned by De Pershuis, publishers of De Morgen. Delhaize has occupied the site in Molenbeek since 1883, attracted by the growing rail network and the nearby Brussels-Charleroi canal, both of which were important tools for the supply of products and distribution to the growing chain of supermarkets. From 1883 to 1914 the company grew to more than 500 branches across Belgium.
“I deeply regret the departure of Delhaize, a historic industrial monument for Molenbeek,” commented Catherine Moureaux, mayor of the commune (and daughter of the former long-time mayor, the late Philippe Moureaux). However she said she was nevertheless able “to understand the reasons for the organisation’s restructuring which are behind this move.”
According to Gaëtan Van Goidsenhoven, leader of the MR fraction in the Brussels parliament and former mayor of neighbouring Anderlecht, the news of the move is “very disturbing”. He told La Libre, “This news is more than worrying. This is an alarm bell. This move will have destructive consequences not only for the economy of the region, but also for jobs.”
Another former Molenbeek mayor, Françoise Schepmans, blamed the decision by Delhaize on “the lack of pro-activity on the part of the Brussels regional government. “For several years now the agency Brussels Enterprise Commerce and Industry (BECI) have been sounding the alarm with regular polling of their members, where the question of mobility stands at the top of the preoccupations of employers, followed by the necessary administrative simplification and both communal and regional taxation,” she said in a statement.
The Kobbegem site is close to Delhaize’s distribution centre in Zellik. The company explained it offered the perfect opportunity “to centralise all of the activities of Delhaize support services,” including marketing, HR, IT, legal and corporate affairs, technical and finance. The Zellik site already houses logistics, purchasing and quality departments.
The move will take place in the first quarter of next year, and the new headquarters will be joined by staff from IT services for Ahold-Delhaize Europe, currently housed in Anderlecht. Finally, the company’s own wine-bottling plant will move to Zellik in 2021.