Blokker also operates a large number of stores in Belgium and Luxembourg. With no franchises and company-owned stores only, Blokker is a leading retailer in these markets, offering a wide selection of household supplies, toys and garden furniture. Blokker has one franchisee in Suriname, who operates a total of three stores
Numerous Belgian retailers are struggling because consumers continued to keep their purse strings tight in 2014. Blokker has, unfortunately, also found itself in this position and saw its total retail sales in the international market fall slightly in 2014.
In the Belgian and Luxembourg markets, the main focus was on reducing costs and on activities designed to increase sales revenues. All stores aimed to optimise their staffing and reduce their stocks.
CLOSE TO THE CUSTOMER WITH CONTEMPORARY FORMATS
Blokker Belgium further upgraded its store layouts in 2014. As part of these changes, it divided the product range into different ‘worlds’. The result is a well-organised store that is easier for customers to navigate. The FIFA World Cup generated substantial additional revenues in the months of May and June, with the Panini football cards being particularly successful. The key to success was strong merchandising and the strong performance in the tournament of the Belgian national team, the ‘Red Devils’.
Blokker Belgium and Nextail worked together during the year under review to set up the blokker.be webshop. The webshop for Blokker customers in Belgium went live on 2 February 2015, just after the end of the 2014 financial year.
OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE WITH OPEN AND COMMITTED TEAMS
Blokker Belgium upgraded its operating processes in a number of ways in 2014. Along with Blokker Netherlands, Belgium changed over to a new warehouse management system. Ahead of the automated reordering system to be implemented in 2016, all Belgian stores have been equipped with Wi-Fi. Sales assistants have received new ordering scanners and the installation of shelf plans is underway, which will have been rolled out at all stores by the third quarter of 2015.
The Belgian stores have also seen a change in the store culture and the further professionalisation of their operations. Sales information is more up-to-date and more easily accessible to the sales teams. A horizontal organisational structure and direct lines of communication give the organisation greater control over its operations. An Employee Engagement Survey is scheduled to be conducted at Blokker Belgium in 2016.
ACTIVITIES AND OUTLOOK FOR 2015
Although the Belgian economy is expected to improve slightly in 2015, consumers remain very price-conscious and for this reason Blokker Belgium is expecting the upcoming year to be challenging. While the FIFA World Cup generated a large amount in additional sales revenues in 2014, other sales promotions have yet to prove their success this year. Examples of these activities include promotions organised in conjunction with Zalando, Studio 100 and women’s magazine Libelle, and merchandising tie-ins with two of the most popular Flemish soap operas, Thuis and De Kampioenen. Blokker Belgium is hoping to maintain stock sales and sales revenues and reduce its stocks on the strength of these promotions. In fact, this is the company’s number-one priority this year.
EXPANSION OF THE WEBSHOP
Blokker Belgium is set to significantly expand the range of items available in its webshops in 2015. In addition, the retailer is also preparing for the 2016 launch of stores based on the new Blokker format currently being introduced at stores across the Netherlands.