Differences in retail structures – The Netherlands vs Belgium

Because Locatus has a detailed overview of all retail outlets in the Netherlands and Belgium, we are superbly equipped to compare shopping areas, provinces, and countries. This week, Locatus publishes the Retail Facts 2016 of both Belgium and the Netherlands, containing interesting key figures concerning retail. In this blog, I compare and contrast the shopping areas of Belgium and the Netherlands. 

The shopping areas of the Netherlands and Belgium are subdivided by Locatus in various shopping area types [1]. Historically, Belgium has developed a different retail structure than the Netherland. As the policies for shop locations has always been less strict in Belgium than in the Netherlands, Belgian shops are much more spread out over the shopping area. [2].

Spread of shops in shopping areas

In total, there are 1,796 shopping areas in Belgium. About half of these is the central shopping area of a town. Compared to the Netherlands, Belgium has a lot of (small) towns.

The Netherlands counts 2,544 shopping areas, and is widely known as a country with a very dense shopping structure. This is reflected by the relatively high portion of supporting shopping areas – only 38% is a central shopping area.

Differences in the number of retail outlets [3]

Belgium features about 211,000 retail outlets, and counts much more retail outlets (services) per inhabitant than the Netherlands. To a lesser extent, this is also true for retail outlets of products.

Belgium counts 82,200 retail outlets of products. That is:

  • 39% of all retail outlets, or
  • 7.4 retail outlets per 1,000 inhabitants.

The Netherlands counts 96,500 retail outlets of products. That is:

  • 43% of all retail outlets, or
  • 5.7 retail outlets of products per 1,000 inhabitants.

In short, the share of retail outlets of products out of all retail outlets is much higher in the Netherlands than in Belgium.

Differences in the structure of retail of products 

Despite the many central shopping areas in Belgium, only 45% of retail outlets of products is located in a city centre, whereas as much as 67% of the Dutch retail outlets of products has a city-centre location (see blue in the graph).



About a quarter of the Dutch retail outlets in products is situated outside of a shopping area (spread). In Belgium, the share of ‘spread-out shops’ is a third of the total.

Would you like to know more about location patterns of retail outlets? Locatus Retail Facts contains key figures per province, shopping area, inhabitant class of the town or the main branche.


[1] The hierarchy of shopping areas is determined by the amount of retail outlets, and whether the shopping area in question is central or supportive. In addition, there are ‘miscellaneous’ shopping areas, such as grand-scale concentrations. For definitions, see www.locatus.com 

[2] A stretched-out concentration of shops along a road is a situation where we find at least 5 retail outlets in products (floor surface of more than 400m²) along a B road within a radius of 1 kilometer. 

[3] In the Dutch language (and therefore also in Dutch research), there is a different word for services retailers (hairdressers, pubs, banks, nail studios, etc.) and products retailers (clothes stores, shoe shops, grocery stores, etc.). 

Retail Facts 2016

Data on individual stores will only mean something when placed into context. Locatus Retail Facts is primarily meant to provide this context: retail information of Dutch (or Belgian) shopping areas is summarised in key figures.

Nicole Dirksen-Janken

Nicole Dirksen-Janken is project leader / data analyst at Locatus. Her main responsibility is the creation of the analyses on the basis of a client’s specific research question. Always with her head in the data, she blogs about trends in the various sectors.