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Winter sales a flop in Belgium amid rising inflation, decline in purchasing power
The popular winter sales period, in which stores offer steep discounts to attract customers, has largely been disappointing in Belgium this year, retailers have reported.
With less than a week to go before the sales period ends, retailers are feeling disappointed in the turnout, according to a survey carried out by the neutral union of independents (SNI), which represents 42,000 entrepreneurs across the country.
Eight out of 10 retailers said they fear sales for this January will be lower than last year’s, and four out of 10 say they have only sold 20-40% of their collection after almost three weeks of promotions.
As a result, many of these retailers are still sitting on a large stock, which they need to clear out in order to both buy and make enough room for the summer collection.
“The sales are still important for many people, but it is not the big rush that one would expect because of the current crisis atmosphere,” the SNI wrote in its analysis.
“Many people think twice before spending, sales or not. Then add to that the rather bad weather we’ve had, which pushes them to stay at home or to go to shopping centres but not to the town centres.”
As a result, SNI expects retailers may be forced to offer even greater discounts in order to clear out their stock for the next season.
“It's not going very well – it's not a disaster either, but it's been raining and that's directly chilling the consumer,” Dominique Michel, head of the Belgian federation of trade and services (Comeos), told RTL.
“We're going to have a very average period compared to the previous sales. In the big chains it is perhaps less serious, but there is a slowdown which is due to the bad weather and also to online shopping – we know that since Covid there has been an explosion of online purchases.”
What’s more, some Belgians may be holding back not on account of rain or a preference for buying online, but because they are guarding their money carefully amid record-breaking heating bills, inflation, rent indexation and wage stagnation, all of which result in less purchasing power.
On top of that, many families are still struggling from the effects of the pandemic, during which time many households saw significant losses in income.
Michel noted that the current economic crisis affects the income of both customers and retailers, with energy prices impacting the costs of running storefronts.
There could also be an overall drop in interest at play when it comes to sales periods. With American promotions such as Black Friday making their way overseas to Europe, sales are no longer such a rare occurrence that they warrant much attention.
“The shopkeeper tries to keep his business alive, to get people to come to him, so perhaps there are a few too many promotions that pile up one after the other,” Michel said.