Albert Heijn had promised, and starts to deliver: at the opening of its second Belgian supermarket in Stabroek, the chain had promised to lift the number of stores from two to ten this year, and to fifty by 2016. It took over three months for the first supermarket of this year to open, but now things are going a lot faster. Its third Belgian supermarket - just like the two first ones, located in Antwerp - has opened earlier this month; three more have just been announced.
Three very different stores in and around Antwerp...
The first two Belgian Albert Heijns had opened - under franchise - in the richer northern suburbs of Antwerp, between the inner city and the Dutch border. These stores directly went for the rich Dutch emigrants, who were eager to find for their own products in Belgium.
The new supermarket opened in one of Antwerp's poorer neighbourhoods, Het Kiel, and is the first one to be self-owned. Its target audience will be completely different: generally poorer people, many immigrants, looking for Dutch prices rather than typically Dutch delicacies.
... and two more still to come
A fourth opening, on the square Hessenplein in Antwerp, has also already been announced: it will be first Albert Heijn in the Antwerp city centre and it will probably aim for a mixture of both audiences.
Moreover, a fifth opening was announced for Beveren: while still in the vicinity of Antwerp, it marks the first opening of an Albert Heijnoutside of the province with the same name. The Beveren supermarket will open in Warande shopping centre in "a few weeks time", and the chain has confirmed it has already started the recruitment of its staff.
West Flanders to follow with Roeselare...
For the avid fans to the West of Antwerp, the chain had even more good news with the confirmation of its first location in West Flanders. Despite earlier difficulties with permissions, Albert Heijn has confirmed to open a supermarket in the Dino Center in Roeselare. Like the first two Belgian Albert Heijns in Brasschaat and Stabroek, this westernmost store will be held under franchise.
Corné Mulders, general manager of AH Belgium, is overjoyed with the news: "these two new openings are an important step in our growth, and people from the provinces of East and West Flanders will soon be able to discover our mix of Belgian quality and Dutch prices."
... and, probably, Harelbeke
Moreover, Albert Heijn has asked for permission to open another West Flemish supermarket in Harelbeke, a city on the axis Lille - Kortrijk - Ghent - Antwerp. The chain wants to take over the buildings of the local Match supermarket, that closed six months ago.
In a reaction, the local council does not expect many problems. "We want to attract more stores to the inner city", says deputy for entrepreneurship Martin Vandeburie. "We search, and map, potential locations and offer them to chains like Blokker or Standaard Boekhandel.”
The deputy announced even more retail plans: “We will also renovate the central market square - including its buildings. Surrounding the square, we plan apartment buildings with stores on the ground floor; This way, we can offer interested chains over 3,600 square metres of additional retail space."