In 2008 5.1% of retail floor space in Belgium was empty. In 2017 the percentage of shop floor space that was empty topped 10% for the first time, rising by a further 0.3% last year.
Last year’s increase was the smallest since 2008. However, this can at least in part be explained by the fact that a growing number of buildings that used to be shops are being given official permission to be put to other uses. For example, last year in Flanders 1.3% of retail premises were reclassified. With this in mind there is speculation that the percentage of shops that are empty might even fall during 2019.
The small business federation Unizo believes that something needs to be done to address the underlying problem. “We are still not succeeding in fundamentally addressing the problem”, Unizo’s Danny Van Assche told VRT News.
Mr Van Assche believes that more shops should be allowed to be converted into for example medical surgeries or flats.
He added that the results of report show “that it would crazy to allow extra huge shopping centres such as Neo (in Brussels) and Uplace (in Machelen, Flemish Brabant) to be built.