After years, the vacancy rate is starting to drop in Belgium. After peaking in May 2021, there are fewer empty stores today. However, vacancy levels are still almost double those in the Netherlands.
beyond the peak
At the end of 2022, 11.3% of commercial premises in Belgium were unoccupied. This figure is still significantly higher than that of Luxembourg (9.2%) and the Netherlands (6%), but lower than that of the United Kingdom (14.1%). But, above all, it represents an important break in the trend: for the first time since 2008, vacancy rates have fallen.
In 2008, 5.1% of all commercial properties were vacant, but this number has increased year-over-year since then… until May 2021. That’s when the vacancy rate hit a (provisional) high of 11.9%. . Despite the challenges, the positive trend continued last year. The number of vacant commercial premises decreased by 848 to 22,557. The number of vacant square meters remained constant: 2.7 million commercial square meters are vacant.
signs of stabilization
Where does this sudden improvement come from? Since 2020 there have been no store surface expansions. Of course, this does not mean that new commercial premises are not built, but that surfaces in other places disappear. In the Netherlands, this strategy has already been shown to reduce vacancy: redundant stores are given another function or transformed. The strategy also seems to be working in Belgium.
In addition, the design office Location sees the first signs of stabilization after the internet leak. The number of stores stabilized for the first time in years, particularly in the toy, jewelry and book sectors, all branches where a large part of sales has moved to e-commerce.
The vacancy rate has decreased especially in Wallonia, although the percentage (12.7%) is still the highest there. It is notable that the centers of large cities also suffer much higher vacancy rates. In Verviers and Charleroi in particular, new construction projects outside the city have caused a lot of vacancy problems in the centers. In Verviers, for example, almost one store in two is empty, while in Charleroi it is one in three. On the other hand, the shopping centers themselves have the lowest vacancy rate (6%).
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After years, the vacancy rate is starting to drop in Belgium. After peaking in May 2021, there are fewer empty stores today.
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