Struggling shop owners in the Belgian capital Brussels have painted a bleak picture of business post-lockdown.
It’s two months since stores were allowed to reopen after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, but takings have been poor.
“In my case, I have days where I have just €50 in takings per day,” said Kathleen Henrotte, the owner of Le Temps du Sucre chocolate shop. “With €50, I can’t pay for anything. It’s a disaster. So we’re all asking, what are we going to do? It’s tough,”
Henrotte put her employees on temporary unemployment and she doesn’t know if or when she will be able to reinstate them.
Just down the road at the Amber Gallery jewellery store, it’s a similar situation. They depend on international tourism, but Europe’s external borders are still mostly closed.
Owner Adam Gromert calculates that since reopening, compared with last year, they are 80% down in terms of turnover.
“Business should pick up in a month or two,” said Gromert. “We need to see an increase, or we need financial support. Because if not, I think that we will see bankruptcies starting from the holidays. The tough times are really going to begin.”
The picture isn’t any brighter in office districts of the Belgian capital. Homeworking has left sandwich shops without clients.
Gaëtan Niego owns Food Minute and told Euronews: “I believe that the crisis hasn’t really begun. It will start between September and January.
“For me, my own personal analysis, it will last for 12 months starting from January… only then we can consider that we have made a certain amount.”
The Belgian Union for Independent Workers fears that one store in five in Brussels will end up closing.
They’re begging people to follow guidelines to wear masks in shops to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Christophe Wambersie, who heads up the union, said: “Even if it’s not very pleasant, it’s an obligation.
“It’s perhaps the best way to try to avoid a second wave and therefore a reconfinement or partial lockdown.
“If that happens it would have dramatic consequences.”
They want the Belgian state to keep its set of temporary aid measures in place until at least the end of the year.