So far, 2021 has been the best year for Belgian retail real estate since 2016, despite Covid and booming e-commerce. But while some prosper, others suffer: home improvement stores take the lead, while inner city stores fall behind.
The picture is diffuse all across the board: while Brussels (30 deals totalling 12,000 sqm) follows largely the same evolution as before, Flanders (50,000 sqm in 83 deals) sees a downward trend. Wallonia sees a rise to over 30,000 sqm, partly owing to the success of new retail park La Couvinoise in Couvin. All in all, real estate specialists Cushman & Wakefield have registered 176 deals totalling 96,000 sqm.
Two thirds of the deals concern stores in retail parks, despite the high base for comparison (2020 already being a record year for retail park deals). City centre prices are buckling under the pressure, losing almost a quarter of their value compared to record years 2017-2018 (top prices dropping from 2,000 euros to 1,550 euros). However, Cushman & Wakefield expects they will rise again in two years' time.
In terms of sector, home improvement and decoration stores like Maisons du Monde, Sleepworld, Jysk and French 4Murs lead the way. Beside those, the most remarkable expansion drive comes from international hospitality concepts with innovative pick-up solutions.
In the current circumstances, Cushman & Wakefield notices a growing demand for flexibility: pop-up stores have well been established to achieve this, but there is now also a growth of shop-in-shops to reduce a surplus of square meters - creating new collaborations. Other retailers opt for sorter terms or variable rents depending on turnover.