"I think Ahold Delhaize will decide to get rid of Albert Heijn in Belgium, to extinguish the brand", retail specialist Gino Van Ossel told Trends. The chain will first grow to 50 stores, however.
"Albert Heijn will disappear in the long term"
What will happen to Albert Heijn in Belgium once the Ahold - Delhaize merger is finalized sometime next year? Will Albert Heijn, which will open its 37th (Boortmeerbeek) and 38th (Ghent) store in Flanders next week, remain a nuisance for Delhaize?
Vlerick retail specialist Gino Van Ossel does not think so: "I think Ahold Delhaize will decide to get rid of Albert Heijn in Belgium, to extinguish the brand. In the short term, it will have some 50 stores in total."
Van Ossel points to the fact that "Albert Heijn already puts pressure on the Belgian margins although it merely has 40 stores. That strategy would hurt its much larger affiliate company, Delhaize Belgium, in the long run. Delhaize Belgium will contribute a whole lot more to Ahold Delhaize than Albert Heijn Belgium", he says, underlining his point that Albert Heijn Belgium will eventually be cast aside in Delhaize Belgium's favour. "Everyone is very tight-lipped now, but everything will be analyzed in due time, especially as the investment is quite high as the company runs a large number of stores itself."
About 400 million euro in turnover?
Albert Heijn Belgium's CEO, Luc De Baets, kept his cards close to his chest when pressed for a reply. He emphasized the supermarket chain has a healthy ambition to grow in Belgium and is determined to carry out the previous plans, namely to reach 50 stores by the end of 2016.
There are no official numbers about Albert Heijn Belgium's performance, but spokesperson Tim Van der Zanden did mention to Trends that the group is very happy about the Belgian activities and that they continue to grow a lot. According to research firm Nielsen, Albert Heijn Belgium's market share is currently 1.4 % and worth 400 million euro in turnover. Retail watchers believe a market share of 3 to 5 % is possible, if the chain reaches 50 stores.