How come we all think an increasing number of store chains are active in Belgium, while the truth is that a mere 24 % of Belgian stores is part of a chain? The reason is that those stores take up 52 % of all available store space.
Store chains expand slower than before 2012
Belgium has 82,476 stores and 19,486 of those are part of a store chain, according to retail data supplier Locatus. Seven years ago, only 15.6 % belonged to a larger store chain, but nowadays nearly 24 % of stores is a branch of a store chain.
"We see a break in 2012, because there had been a gradual 1 % annual increase of branches before that year and ever since, it has dropped to 0.5 or 0.6 % per year", Locatus' Nicole Dirksen-Janken said.
Nearly 1 in 4 may seem a low number, but those store chains also occupy a lot of store space. "If we look at the actual meters these branches occupy, then they total more than half of the available store space as most major stores are actually branches of store chains. At this time, nearly 52 % of all store space belongs to a branch and that number is still growing." Nevertheless, 2012 was also a turning point in this regard. "The annual 2 % growth before 2012 dropped to nearly 1 % afterwards."
33 branches with only self-employed people
Fashion department stores like e5 Mode and H&M have the most branches, followed by textile stores like Zeeman and supermarkets (Delhaize, Carrefour, ...). When it comes to actual store size, supermarkets are ranked number one, trailed by pharmacies (like Kruidvat) and textile stores.
There are branches that have escaped the formation of chains. Out of 137 retail branches Locatus distinguishes, 33 still exclusively work with self-employed people. Those branches include souvenirs, leatherwear, antique, fishing equipment, water sports, coins / stamps and comics.