Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo currently has no plans to expand to Belgium’s French-speaking South, nor for a Belgian webshop. Progress is slow, the retailer admits.
Jumbo wanted to reach a hundred Belgian stores within the first five years of its expansion, but after two years it only managed to open eighteen stores in the country. Progress is slower than expected, CEO Frits van Eerd admitted in Belgian business newspaper De Tijd, mainly because anyone – be it municipalities, residents or competitors – can start lengthy procedures against awarded building permits. “Finding new locations is not the problem: we have contracts for up to fifty new stores”, the CEO confidently says.
Two areas of expansion are off the table for now: Wallonia and online. “We have not tried to buy the 86 Carrefour stores that were for sale last month: we do not want to be too greedy. When we have made our Flemish stores are a big success, it may be time to look for further expansion to the rest of Belgium.”
The CEO says that the ambition to open a hundred Belgian stores remains his ambition, but now also adds that this is an absolute minimum to be able to start a Belgian webshop as well: that scale is necessary to be able to use advantages of scale and to be able to adapt better to the Belgian market. “When we have reached that milestone, it would make sense to start with e-commerce in Belgium, too.”
Expansion in Belgium is difficult for another reason too, Van Eerd admits. “When we open a store in the Netherlands, we can precisely predict its turnover, costs, growth. That is completely different in Belgium: we are still unable to understand the Belgians’ shopping behaviour well enough. We are still in an experimental phase here”, he says. One of the logical solutions is to hire more Belgian employees at the local headquarters in Brasschaat, which the company is duly doing now.