Belgian retail chains Match and Smatch are coming to an end. Having already sold their stores abroad earlier this year, they now also disappear from their home market. Colruyt Group acquires 57 stores, while closure looms over the almost thirty other stores (and supporting services).
The chain of crises in the last few years, especially inflation and its effect on energy and wage costs, put the final nail in the coffin as the chains were unable to recover from difficulties in previous years. “Earlier recovery plans did not bear fruit”, the company said in a press release, and there are “not enough concrete prospects” to find extra financing.
For two thirds of the stores, a solution was found in Belgian market leader Colruyt Group, which acquires 57 stores and their 1.069 employees. The stores are “geographically complementary” with Colruyt’s current store network and will “enable us to increase the pace of our growth plans”, the new owner comments. If the competition authorities give permission for the acquisition, the deal should be completed by the end of March 2024.
Colruyt had already acquired a number of separate Match stores in the Antwerp region in the last few months, and is looking to convert all of its new acquisitions to “the most suiting” of its different chains, depending on local circumstances – including not only the eponymous supermarket chain, but also OKay or BioPlanet.
Almost thirty other stores were no part of Colruyt’s plans: for these, the Louis Delhaize group is still looking for solutions. Several options are still open, the company stresses. Stores for which no new owner can be found will end up the same as the supporting and logistical services: they will meet their end and a collective redundancy procedure for all employees has already been initiated. In the worst case scenario, a maximum of 690 employees will lose their jobs.
With today’s steps, the Bouriez family is taking further steps in the complete dismantling of the Louis Delhaize group. Earlier this year, the group already sold its Romanian and French operations to Carrefour, and its 27 Luxembourg branches to French retailer E.Leclerc. The question is now what will happen to the company’s few remaining operations.
The group still has seven large (and loss-making) Cora hypermarkets in Belgium, the proximity store chain Louis Delhaize (with more than 150 stores) and the distinctive formula of meal and convenience stores Delitraiteur, accounting for forty independently operated shops.
Remarkably, only last year Louis Delhaize had already planned the end for Match and Smatch in Belgium (while then still holding on to the brand name in other countries). Previous CEO Jean-Marc van Cutsem had planned to convert all Smatches to Louis Delhaize and all Matches to a new concept, Louis Delhaize Open Market. However, after just a few conversions, the plan was scuppered along with its initiator.