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Running against wider market trends, retail activity in Brussels remained steady throughout 2015. Historically split into two large areas, the capital is still, with a few exceptions, the prime target for major international brands seeking to open their first flagship store in Belgium. The reasons for this are straightforward: Brussels is the capital with the largest population and is the Belgian city with the widest international reach, ahead of Antwerp which, unsurprisingly, is the country’s second-largest city.

In the lower part of the city, Rue Neuve remains highly sought after. It has a regular passing trade with an average footfall of 44,000 people per day and has recently secured a number of key retailers.  “These include Primark, Nike, Desigual and Calzedonia", explains Jonathan Delguste, Head of city-centre retail for Brussels and Wallonia for Cushman & Wakefield. 

“A number of new retailers are also expected to open stores in the city over 2016; these include Rituals, Holland & Barrett and the Italian cosmetics brand, Kiko, which will open its second store in Brussels to follow its first on Chaussee D’Ixelles.”

Retail activity is at a good level and is set for a further boost with the arrival of ‘The Mint’ in 2017. In between the Place de la Monnaie and Boulevard Anspach, the site has an excellent location. 

“The Mint is a ± 15,000 sq m project which will have around 20 retail units” states Jonathan Delguste. “These will be spread across the base of the building, with a section on the Place de la Monnaie side and another on the Boulevard Anspach side. This will further strengthen links between Rue Neuve and Rue des Fripiers. Negotiations with a number of key retailers are underway, but it's too early to say more."

The upper part of the city has also seen a number of new projects. ‘Le Toison d’Or’ has opened with three brands who currently only have a single outlet in Brussels:  Marks & Spencer, Bodum (a Danish brand specialising in table and kitchenware) and,
of course, Apple which opened on the 19 September. Zara is also located in the centre. “Toison d’Or has clearly filled a gap in the market which had been wide open for over fifteen years and which had created a division between the upper and lower parts of the city”, continues Jonathan Delguste. “This high street in the upper part of the city has seen an increase in footfall since the opening of the Apple Store and Marks & Spencer.”

A recent report by Atrium has confirmed these findings. Before the arrival of these new retailers, Avenue de la Toison d’Or attracted around 12,700 customers per day.  From the 19 September, this figure increased by almost 30% to around 16,100. “Toison d’Or has become one of Brussels’ most pleasant high streets in and is attracting an increasing number of flagship stores”, reveals Jonathan Delguste. “Two examples are Massimo Dutti, which has its largest Belgian store here at ±1,000 sq m; this is about the same amount of space as taken by H&M’s new brand, &Other Stories.”

Other recent arrivals on Avenue de la Toison d’Or include Villebrequin, Timberland, Flying Tiger and Quick. And on Avenue Louise, Pinko, Lancel, IKKS, Electric Valley and Rue Blanche. Also part of the upper city, Chaussée d’Ixelles, has also welcomed a number of new retailers including Kiko, Sucx, Hairdis and La Halle.

We can’t talk about retail in the capital without mentioning Boulevard de Waterloo, the luxury high street. Even though in terms of aesthetics the street leaves a lot to be desired, the intense level of activity on this street make it a key part of the retail landscape. “In 2015, Moncler opened a store, followed by Chopard”, adds Jonathan Delguste. “Soon, we’ll also see Fabiana Filippi (at No 4-5 with fit-out work starting at the beginning of March), Dolce&Gabbana (at No 6, replacing the former Copenhagen Tavern) and Versace (at No 7); these last two retailers should open stores over the second half of 2016.”

These retailers are clearly recognised as ‘luxury’ brands and will attract the high-end clientele that Brussels so greatly needs.