globe retail outlook data


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The Belgian economy continued its moderate recovery with economic growth of 1.2% in 2016, driven primarily by fixed investment and private consumption. Early in 2017, consumer and business sentiment is high, raising expectations for a prosperous year. Growth over the last year was supported by strong retail performance in the real estate sector where a number of new schemes have supported take-up activity including the Docks Bruxsel and Rive Gauche shopping centres. Retailers such as Primark, Zara, and H&M have expanded their presence in Belgium recently. This positive activity, however, has not been evenly experienced. The leasing market continues to diverge, with rents stable or even trending slightly upwards in prime locations, while declining elsewhere, particularly in poorer secondary and tertiary locations.

Belgium faced a difficult 2016, with the bombings in March causing a notable drop in tourism and an unrelated exacerbation of road congestion. Nevertheless, the retail market remained resilient, posting record retail take-up activity. Retail dynamics have effectively stabilized for high streets in primary locations, though some secondary and tertiary locations are struggling. International retailers are prepared to pay higher rents, thereby chasing local, often smaller, players to secondary streets. Even the best high streets, though, are favourably priced when compared with other European cities. Vacancy on average is increasing, with the best high streets currently experiencing voids of 2% to 7%. Belgium’s traditionally strong out-of-town retail is also performing well. Given strong demand for structured retail parks and limited supply, rental values continue to rise for the best-located out-of-town locations.  

Retailing floor space per inhabitant is relatively low in Belgium in comparison to other European countries, but Belgium is catching up. Around 850,000 sqm of projects are currently in the pipeline over the next four years. A large portion of these projects, however, only exist as plans and have not yet received any permits. The number of projects that actually go to ground is expected to be lower. In Brussels, permitting issues for the Neo and UPlace shopping centres continue to delay construction. Development is especially concentrated in Wallonia, where an important gap between Brussels and Flanders was present. The high street retail sector dominates the retail market and shopping centres are notably less present than in most other European cities. The retail warehousing market is, conversely, very popular. 

Our Top Tip For
New Arrivals

Belgium is a country of three official languages: French, Dutch and German?and the majority of Belgians also have an excellent knowledge of English. Belgians love good food. Excellent food is available at reasonable prices. Belgians are accustomed to very high standards of living.


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