A single market in the Benelux countries for retail could generate 95,000 jobs and 36,000 companies by 2025

Results of the study ‘Benelux Retail 2025’

The creation of a single market for retail in the Benelux countries offers more than just significant benefits to both consumers and businesses. By 2025, a unified retail market could create 95,000 new jobs and 36,000 new companies in the sector. That has been shown by a study conducted by Vlerick Business School, commissioned by the Benelux Secretariat General. The study, which was presented to the Ministers for Economic Affairs of the Benelux countries – Kris Peeters (BE), Henk Kamp (NL) and Etienne Schneider (LU) – also contains five policy recommendations to strengthen cross-border retail trade by eliminating existing obstacles for entrepreneurs.

Benelux Deputy Secretary-General Alain de Muyser, commented that: ‘this study is the first of its kind, given that it provides reliable guidelines for a collaboration that may benefit businesses as well as citizens, as consumers. However, this is only the beginning. The recommendations need to be further developed in a cross-border context, which is the reason for a more unified single market in the Benelux countries for the retail trade to exist.’

The very heartbeat of the economy

In the Benelux countries, the retail sector is an important economic player with a daily impact on citizens’ lives. The retail trade included 198,052 companies in 2013, accounting for almost one million jobs and a turnover of 219 billion euros. Online sales – e-commerce – achieved a turnover of almost 20 billion euros in the Benelux countries in 2014. This Benelux-wide study, which originated with the Benelux Summit of Prime Ministers, has revealed that the full potential of a Benelux market for retail has not yet been reached. The realisation of a single domestic market in the Benelux would yield enormous benefits for businesses and consumers, according to this Benelux report.

Consumers and businesses are the winners

A better integrated and more competitive domestic Benelux market for retail will mean lower prices for consumers, better access to a wider and more varied range of products, better services and new opportunities for cross-border shopping.

For businesses, a single market will lead to increased efficiency and cost savings (thus a 1% reduction in costs would yield 2.45 billion euros by 2018). These savings will stimulate investments in innovations, for example. Furthermore, retailers will gain better access to new markets and the Benelux ‘home market’ will constitute an ideal stepping stone to Europe and international growth.

Cross-border obstacles

The Benelux study demonstrates that limited access to financing, legal fragmentation, cultural sensitivities, differences in legislation and territorial limitations on deliveries (high on the list of priorities in the Benelux) are currently still hindering retailers’ cross-border economic activities.

Five Benelux recommendations

The report proposes five initiatives for policymakers to exploit the full potential of a Benelux retail market and remove cross-border obstacles for businesses:

  • Harmonise laws through various legislative initiatives, taking input from the business community into account;
  • Create and disseminate knowledge through business networks and a specialised virtual cross-border knowledge centre, and simplify legislation;
  • Scale up by covering financial risks and increase the administrative scale by creating a new legal form (the ‘Benelux business’);
  • Create inspiring role models (e.g. through communication campaigns);
  • Set up a Benelux steering group for ‘retail’ in which the business community and governments tackle the obstacles together as a priority.

An example to the EU

By removing obstacles to a cross-border retail sector, the Benelux countries can serve as an example to Europe by demonstrating that the formula of a single domestic market works and provides benefits to consumers and businesses. In this way, the Benelux countries can present their example as a trendsetter for the European Union.

Download the full research report 'Benelux Retail 2025 - part 1' and 'Benelux Retail 2025 - part 2'.

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