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Belgians prefer shopping in city centre25.11.2017

Belgians prefer shopping in city centre

Despite the rise of shopping malls in the periphery, Belgians still prefer shopping in the city centre

With the opening of Docks Bruxsel, the question arises where the customer prefers to do their shopping: are these peripheral shopping malls what the Belgian customer wants?

Research of Qrf City Retail, in collaboration with Q&A, shows that for fashion items (clothing, shoes, jewellery, beauty and health, …) the inner-city centre is still preferred. That same investigation also tells us that physical shopping remains the most popular: only 17% of the customers shop more frequently online. 

“Online shopping is catching up, but this doesn’t have to be a threat for physical stores. Many opportunities lie within the scope of retailers.” – Anneleen Desmyter, CEO of Qrf City Retail


The research shows:

  • Belgians are very clear about fashion items such as clothes, shoes and jewellery: they still prefer buying these in the inner-city centre (59% inner-city, 26% periphery, 16% online).
  • In general, Belgians prefer shopping in the city centre to peripheral or online shopping (45% inner-city, 38% periphery, 17% online).
  • Mostly electronics and telecommunication are bought online.
  • Physical shoppers buy more than online shoppers (59% vs. 9%).
  • Trends: offline and online shopping are starting to blend.


Docks, Neo and Uplace

Places like Docks, Neo and Uplace show that more and more peripheral shopping malls are being built. Nevertheless, the inner-city remains very popular for fashion shopping. When shopping for jewellery, clothes or shoes, Belgians still firmly choose the inner-city rather than the periphery. 

“We notice that shopping in the inner-city attracts, because it is pleasant and convivial. This also connects to the items people buy.”


Bridge between offline and online

The use of online shopping has been increasing in the past couple of years, and many retailers are very aware of this evolution. Some retailers therefore offer their products in an offline as well as an online store. Nevertheless, 65% of the consumers shop most often in the inner-city. They think physically shopping is more pleasant and more efficient. Physical shoppers also buy more articles (59% vs 9%) than online shoppers, and they spend more money (53% vs 13%).

“However, the two worlds cannot be seen as completely separated,” says Anneleen Desmyter. “There are still many chances for merchants in the inner city. Why not offer a BOPUS (buy online pick up in stores) service? That way, the client has all the advantages of physical shopping: they get advice and can for example try clothes on, and thereby avoid having to return articles afterwards.”


Belgians are not concerned by the ecological impact of online shopping

The fact that the home delivery and returning of articles bought online entails a high emission of greenhouse gases does not concern the Belgians (yet): only 26% of the consumers claims to reflect on the ecological impact of online shopping, 35% is neuter and 39% is not concerned at all. “It is necessary to make consumers aware about the possible ecological impact, especially during times like this,” says Desmyter.


Pop-up stores

The evolution of physical shops opening an online store is a normal one, but the reversed movement does not happen enough: webstores settling in a shopping street. An evolution that has been increasing in the last years, is the opening of a pop-up store. When the concept becomes popular, this pop-up store can eventually develop into a permanent one. “We really must keep in mind the experience of the shoppers. Consumers want one consistent experience. In previous research, it became apparent that consumers would like stores to be open longer. They shop online because online stores are open 24/7, but they miss the physical part of fitting and trying on,” Desmyter says.

“A physical shop is obviously the most logical next step for a webstore that has proved to be profitable,” Desmyter says.


Online vs offline shopping behaviour

Belgians still shop more offline. Especially for food, jewellery, garden articles and DIY-products, Belgian customers prefer going to a physical store. Only in the category “electronics and telecommunication”, Belgians shop more online.


Research preference and price comparisons



Electronics and telecommunication



Food service industry



Interior and decoration















Beauty and hygiene






Sports and spare time



Garden and DIY