Fashion stores suffer worst first quarter since 2011

Belgian clothing retailers have had their worst start to the year since 2011, De Tijd writes, based on figures from statistics office Statbel. Sales volume in the first quarter was at its lowest level in 13 years, except for 2020 and 2021, during the pandemic. Sales are expected to pick up from Monday when the annual summer sales period begins.

Compared to the first three months of last year, fashion shops saw a 3 per cent drop in sales in 2024. Since 2022 – a record year as people returned to the high street after the pandemic – the volume of sales has been declining continuously.

In April, sales volume fell by 10.5 per cent compared to the same month in 2023. This made it the worst April since 2008 and the heaviest year-on-year decline since measurements began in 2006.

"All the summer items have been left lying around. Our stocks are larger than planned"

"Between April and a week ago, it hardly stopped raining," Erika Mees, spokesperson for clothing chain ZEB told De Tijd. "All the summer items - tops, bermuda shorts, summer dresses - have been left lying around. Our stocks are larger than planned."

The number of fashion shops in Flanders has also fallen by 22 per cent over the past decade to some 9,000 outlets, data from the Locatus agency shows. Independent shops and Belgian chains are under pressure: E5, JBC and Cassis Paprika have all closed branches in recent years, while shoe chain Bristol faces going out of business after 100 years of trading.

Major international chains are also faring badly, with the Belgian branches of Scotch & Soda and Esprit recently going bankrupt, and H&M losing 15 per cent on the stock market on Thursday morning after a profit warning. 


Rue Neuve shopping street in Brussels © PHOTO BELPRESS

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