Dutch shopping streets face looming disaster with economic downturn
Many shops in the Netherlands are in danger of vacancy due to a decrease in sales because of the coronavirus catastrophe. Now that people are strictly instructed to social distance, these shops are losing a great percentage of customers that come to them, Trouw reported
Jan Meerman, director of INretail, the trade association of retailers, said that things are actually worse than they appear when looking at increasingly crowded shopping streets like Kalverstraat in Amsterdam. According to him, these shopping areas only attract approximately half the percentage of their visitors pre-coronavirus visitors.
A recent study by Retailagenda concluded that until the coronavirus vaccine is out, customers will continue to shop less in physical stores, preferring the safety of online shopping. Retail companies reported having between 35 and 80 percent less walk in recently, and they expect that 20 – 40% of shops to disappear within two years. Realtors and municipalities also expect vacancy of an excessive number of shops
People stay away and that causes growth in vacancies and city centers losing their vitality. This particularly affects smaller and medium-sized cities, but large cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht also saw a significant decrease in walk-ins due to the coronavirus crisis, the Retailagenda researchers found.
INretail came up with a ‘big city plan’, to make it safe and easy for shoppers to go to an actual store. Make sure customers know which times are not so crowded, and make parking cheaper at those times, is one of the plans.
Hub Bloem of Stec Groep, a consultancy that also investigated the pandemic crisis, thinks INretail's plans will not solve the underlying problems of the Netherlands having more stores than there is demand for. According to him, transformation is what is needed.
“Commercial buildings can be converted into something else, especially in approach streets leading to the inner cities,” says Bloem. Homes would be best, as that solves two problems. The downside to transformation is that home rents are much lower than commercial rents, and property owners won't like that. "But they won't be able to escape it."