Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo has had a slower start in Belgium than expected, but that is no sign to retreat from the country. Rather, the general planning is slowed down a bit, to fifty Belgian stores by 2025.
Jumbo had imagined its Belgian expansion quite differently, CEOs Ton van Veen and Peter Isaac had to admit. Things are going more slowly than expected, but there is no question of giving up: “Last year, we took another look at everything and then said a resounding yes to further growth in Belgium“, they say in an interview with Belgian newspaper HLN. “We are here to stay!”
“Conditions in Belgium are more obstinate than we thought four years ago”, company CEO Van Veen adds: Jumbo had counted on better prices and margins here, but the margin profile in Belgium is still quite similar to that in the Netherlands. He also admits that his supermarket chain is still making a loss in Belgium (4.1 million euros last year), but says that does not worry him. Rather, Jumbo is focusing on the long term: “The moment when we start making a profit is not years away”, he says.
After almost four years, Jumbo has opened thirty stores in Belgium. That is way slower than expected, but that is because of the licensing legislation in Belgium. Appeals are almost systematically lodged for every project, causing up to a year and a half of delay each time. “Our original idea of 100 stores in a few years is something we should perhaps not have said.” Fifty shops in 2025 is “plausible”, according to Van Veen.
Both Van Veen and Jumbo Belgium CEO Peter Isaac admit that they have to do more to convince Belgian consumers that its formula is distinctive enough. 3,000 of the 16,000 references are now uniquely Belgian, but the chain still has steps to take there. “We notice that the closer towards the coast, the greater the need also for more regional, Belgian products.”
Nevertheless, Isaac and Van Veen believe in the strength of the Jumbo concept: “There really is no other supermarket in Belgium willing to go as far in combining lowest price, largest range and best service”, pointing to the USPs of challengers Colruyt, Carrefour and Delhaize.
Jumbo also confirms that it will also expand its ‘Foodmarkt’ (Food Market) concept to Belgium. The extra-large concept will open in Ghent in the autumn of 2024. Foodmarkt is a formula with twice the range and more experience: chefs will prepare meals in-store and there will also be a restaurant, the Jumbo Foodcafé, where you can eat on site. E-commerce with home delivery, however, is still some time away: for that, Jumbo first needs to have more shops in Belgium.