The major Belgian DIY retailers had around 350 outlets in operation at the end of 2004. The independent retail sector still retains a market share of around 45 per cent, but more and more companies are undergoing a strategic reorientation and so enabling the franchise groups to achieve new levels of growth.
Last year Hubo was facing the challenge of tailoring the twelve branches of Superbois that it had taken over to its own Hubo concept. After seven months, eight outlets had been adapted – with growth rates in excess of 30 per cent.
Brico was able to generate new impetus through the successful opening of a Brico Plan It store in Kortrijk and the conversion of the six Leroy Merlin outlets. What is more, the company revamped four other stores (each 5 000 m² in size). Gamma finally completed the total renovation of the Bricorama outlets after three years. It was also given the go-ahead for the store planned in Aarlen.
A variety of successful independent retailers hit the headlines as the result of investing in their DIY concepts. They included AsterX Devrieze in the Mechelen region and Hobbyrama in the Gent region.
According to a still new market survey by GfK Belgium, the average sales/m2 of all DIY outlets comes to € 2 000, and sales/m2 of the DIY superstores averages € 2 500. These figures are being questioned by a number of companies, however. It is quite possible that they do indeed show certain shortcomings. The stores have an average retail area of 2 300 m2. The Gamma stores are somewhat smaller at 1 700 m2, and the Briko Dépôts considerably larger at 11 000 m2.
Price competition hangs over the rates of return like the sword of Damocles, particularly in such a small country as Belgium. The import of goods from Southeast Asia has greatly increased. The three biggest retail groups have adapted their ranges accordingly and boldly, and there is talk of a private label share of about 20 per cent. “Legio”, a new competitor in the marketplace, has opened “Overstock” outlets, which sell nothing but container loads of imports from China.