Next Thursday will be an all-important day for the Belgian branch of Dutch chain Blokker. The trade unions fear the announcement of new store closings, or an even worse fate for the chain...
At a loss
Just three years after an earlier restructuring led to 63 stores being closed and 230 jobs lost, the situation at Blokker Belgium has not improved. At the end of last year, owner Michiel Witteveen already said the situation in "Belgium was a problem", and that an evaluation would follow this month. With catastrophic results on the cards - Belgian turnover went down more than 30 % to 60 million euros and operational losses amount to 4.6 million euros - things are not looking good.
"The management has told us that only 6 of the 128 remaining stores in Belgium are profitable", Anne-Marie Dierckx of trade union CNE told Trends. The fear for new closings and even a complete retreat from Belgium seem logical, and CEO Geert Kampschöer did not want to calm the nerves: "It is too early to make statements", he said.
Dierckx says that since the acquisition of Blokker by Witteveen, not much have changed. Five stores have been renovated, but "we do not see a coherent plan of action: the group's strategy nowadays is completely unclear for us", she said.
The problems at the Dutch chain stem from a slow response to the growth of e-commerce and the rise of competitors like Action. "The categories in which Blokker is active, are very suitable for e-commerce", retail expert Gino Van Ossel says. "The origin of the chain was in a focus on household goods, like garbage collectors, ironing boards and the like: these are very functional products for which consumers do not want to spend much time or money - so online shopping is an ideal for them. The chain has redirected itself towards more design, but it lacks credibility as a home decoration store."