Antwerp, the new Belgian El Dorado of retail?

Absolutely, if we are to believe the latest Cushman & Wakefield survey, which ranks Antwerp ahead of the capital. What about the rest of the country, Europe and the world? Let’s take a look.

Every year the international real estate company issues a report on the most expensive thoroughfares on which international brands are wanting to open their stores. It tracks 462 retail streets throughout the world. The 28th edition reveals a trend: despite the drop in rental indices observed in Western markets, 36% of the streets examined recorded a rise in their rental value this year.

It's no surprise that Upper 5th Avenue in New York retained its status as the most expensive location in the world. However, there's one caveat: for the first time since the financial crisis, the US city recorded a fall in its average rental value. It was closely followed by Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, China. Third place is occupied not by London, but by Paris. The Champs Élysées shows an annual price of € 13,255 per square metre compared with € 12,434 per square metre for New Bond Street in London. Nevertheless, we note that London shows the strongest lease rental growth in Europe. Tokyo takes fifth place with Ginza, a rise in comparison to 2015.

In Europe, high-street brands are facing new challenges, according to Justin Taylor, the Cushman & Wakefield Retail Director for Europe: "Retailers are opting to offer online sales alongside, not instead of, a physical presence. They are also raising the bar in terms of customer experience, with leading examples including Apple's refitted store on Regent Street in London."

In Belgium, Antwerp dominates

The first Belgian high street, the Meir in Antwerp, is ranked 29th. For the Flemish city, this is the same position as in 2015. The average lease rental is € 1,850 per square metre a year. Two streets in Brussels follow – Rue Neuve and Avenue Louise, with an annual lease rental of € 1,775 per square metre. That's € 300 more than Veldstraat in Ghent. The Hoogstraat in Hasselt is ranked above Rue Vinâve d'Ile in Liège: € 1,250 as against € 1,125 per square metre.

For our country, Cushman & Wakefield state that these are prime Belgian high streets for opening flagship stores. However, the company emphasises that the attacks of 22 March 2016 "undoubtedly had an impact on tourist numbers in Brussels", even though "there are signs that this is now fading away.”

The full report can be downloaded in PDF format, simply by registering on the Cushman & Wakefield website.



Could your intuition help you make better decisions?

All of us have heard that little voice in our ear quietly persuading us of a new idea or a different way to tackle a challenge at work. But acting on that voice is another thing altogether. And yet...

Marcel Schwantes, an expert in workplace culture based on "servant leadership*", is well placed to recognise his intuition speaking. This small voice inside us has a tendency to bring out, from the deepest recesses of our beings, feelings that can be buried under rational layers of logical thinking.

People who are emotionally intelligent are more readily able to listen to this internal compass in order to keep themselves on the right track. But not everybody has this capacity.

How can we recognise the voice of our own intuition?

Here is some practical advice:

  • If the voice signals a danger, it is undoubtedly your intuition speaking.
  • Intuition speaks to you in a way you cannot ignore.
  • First of all, we tell ourselves the voice is wrong.
  • It gives us a message that is not particularly comfortable.
  • We do not really want to act on its advice, or we tend to put off doing so.
  • It seems counterintuitive!
  • We allow ourselves to put it out of our minds...

Intuition and integrity – a perfect partnership

The reason why many of us still disregard this voice is that it can sometimes be unsettling. It pricks our consciousness and challenges our convictions, habits and belief systems. Yet it can hide precious inner resources just waiting to be revealed.

But to be able to utilise them, we must demonstrate integrity. When activated by the necessary bravery, this partnership between integrity and intuition can become a superpower that allows us to handle tricky workplace situations – or even run a company!


*Editor's note: Liberated leadership, as opposed to authoritarian leadership.



Reforestation and biodiversity in practice

Some causes are more important than the pursuit of EBITDA. Without trees there can be no biodiversity, and flora, fauna, soil, water and air are all affected. That is why WeForest is mobilising companies to plant forests.

Reforestation is neither a luxury nor a question for hippies. It is indispensable for the climate and biodiversity, the quality of our soil and water, as well as for food; it is thus vital for the future of all species. 

The solutions, which remain under-recognised, are simply waiting to emerge. They are not technical, do not adhere to the logic of extraction and do not call on limited natural resources. They are tremendously effective, draw their inspiration from natural ecosystems and entail integrating trees into fields.

We have pinpointed two relevant non-governmental initiatives: Ecosia, a search engine launched by a start-up in Berlin, has attracted 7 billion users and plants one tree for every 45 searches made – the equivalent of some 27 million trees planted to this day; secondly, the non-profit organisation WeForest is utilising its expertise in this area, its basis in science and its business network to engage in sustainable reforestation. We went to meet Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, the founder of WeForest, to hear her story.

From carbon offsetting to corporate 'water footprints'

In the early days, WeForest was not convinced by carbon offsetting, which it regarded as too reductive. Yet it was a means to connect with its target audience: companies anxious to measure, reduce and then offset the carbon emissions that they are not able to avoid. Today, the objective of 'net positive emissions' has been set, which also aims to offset past emissions.

It is obvious that environmental concerns now extend beyond carbon alone. Many are beginning to examine their water footprint. A new vision is taking hold, which entails development aid via the promotion of reforestation. "Moving countries out of poverty and doing more than simply planting trees and leaving: this is how companies now wish to act in a socially responsible way", explains Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, CEO of WeForest.

Intervening on vegetation, carbon, water, air and employment

With the 270 corporate clients that have joined it since 2011, WeForest planted almost 17 million new trees and restored 13,000 hectares of land by the end of 2017, and aims to double these figures by 2020. It offers high-impact marketing materials to customer companies with messages such as 'one sale = one tree planted'. 

In 2014, Brabantia decided to 'do something different'. It wanted to sell products, of course, but also give thought to global issues. Working alongside WeForest, the company entered into a joint financing project supporting reforestation. "Since Brabantia began to state on its website, on YouTube and on its packaging that one tree would be planted for every rotary dryer sold, it has seen a 25% increase in sales every year", explains the head of WeForest, citing well-substantiated case studies with certified benchmarks: "We go beyond the theoretical", she continues. "There is total transparency, with every customer receiving a GPS map of the hectares they have funded. We then ensure the forest is protected, approve our customers' projects and help develop the socio-economic activity of the entire region by initiating alternative revenue sources which create employment."

A tree is more valuable in the ground than on it

WeForest is not engaged in helping Zambia in order to maintain its reliance on international aid, but to educate the hundreds of farmers who chopped down all of their trees in order to sell them for firewood. By bringing them together, the association demonstrates that they do not have to clear trees to sell forestry chips, and that by selectively collecting biomass, they can provide heat without cutting a tree down. WeForest trains women to work as nursery growers, giving them a job, an income and an identity. It also supplies beehives to farmers who have begun to produce honey as a new source of income. Bees have other positive effects too, since they pollinate flowers, plants and fruit crops, for example. "It's really simple", affirms Marie-Noëlle Keijzer. "If we kill bees and birds by using pesticides and insecticides, we are preventing nature from doing its work."

Trees provide a habitat for animals and natural fertiliser for plants

In regions of Brazil where tree coverage is 3%, leopards have completely died out. Agriculture has supplanted forests wherever the ground is level. WeForest cannot operate across the entirety of the country, which is much too large. But they have created green corridors, and life has begun again. Trees and plants have been restored, attracting birds and animals that use them to move around, eat and reproduce. 

Trees are also a natural source of fertiliser: corn grows more quickly when it is close to trees. They provide shade and retain water in the soil.

There are trees and trees 

Not all reforestation projects are equal. Some trees boost the food supply or increase soil nitrogen levels (such as the lucerne), whereas others are detrimental to diversity. For example, no animals will live in palm tree plantations where the soil is also full of chemicals. "We won't solve the problem if we do nothing to change the causes of deforestation: intensive agriculture for the purposes of producing meat, for example", says Marie-Noëlle Keijzer, firmly convinced. Solutions exist, but everyone needs to accept their share of responsibility.

Sources: BNP Paribas Fortis, WeForest


2030, the future of work

Will the labour market in 2030 be blue, red, green or yellow? Consulting firm PwC tried to create four possible scenarios. This interesting projection exercise serves, above all, as a reason to begin a debate about the future workforce.

What will the labour market look like by the year 2030? This is a question that needs to be asked in an era characterised by significant technological shifts such as the automation of tasks, machine learning, as well as the emergence of new jobs and the requirement for the appropriate "human" skills. The revolution changing how we work is like a train that set off a few years ago and is travelling faster and faster, bringing changes for all of society. And the challenge for HR and other departments promises to be a sizeable one as everything will evolve, both now and in the future: the concept of talent, skills, modes of operating, infrastructure, tools, recruitment and training. On the eve of this major transition, consultancy company PwC imagined four possible scenarios designated by four colours.

Red: innovation holds the power

This is a fictional world where the number of US full-time employees with permanent employment contracts collapses – to 9%... This near-future scenario is typified by a lack of regulation, and gives prominence to specialists, niches and technological progress. The pace of everything becomes faster still (creativity, market entry, etc.) and the risks are greater than ever; today's successes become tomorrow's failures. On the labour market, companies are seizing talented and increasingly specialised people. Digital platforms connect supply and demand via automated processes, and competition is rife for the most highly-prized skills. For workers, experience and the highest level of specialisation both begin to outweigh graduate qualifications.

Blue: giants rule the world

The corporate giants are at the heart of PwC's blue world scenario. The larger, more powerful and more global they become, the better they can crush their competitors. These giants are dominant; they increase their profits and impose their law, even on states. But what of their staff? They are ultra-skilled and have transformed themselves into a "super workforce" of elite workers whose performance, wellbeing and risk of breakdown are measured to an obscene degree. In exchange for this constant pressure and continuous monitoring, the employees of the blue future receive a whole host of services from their company (e.g. childcare, healthcare, and so on.).

Green: the power of corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR)

Companies are obliged to forego motor vehicles that run on fossil fuels, and account for the impact they have on the environment and society. But this green future is not about "greenwashing". CSR becomes a financial imperative because of the weight of public opinion (i.e. consumer views) and other pressures. Advances in technology support companies to achieve their green objectives and offer their staff a well-designed, well-balanced and ethical working environment. Values, including trust and loyalty, are at the heart of the relationship between employers and workers.

Yellow: humans at the centre

Despite technological progress, humans are still the pillar at the heart of society in this imaginary world. The "made by me" label, which stipulates that no machines were used to create the design, is recognised as the hallmark of quality. This is a utopia dominated by equity and ethics, where craftsmen and women are revered as sacred. Regulations establish the concept of "good jobs" and professional associations flourish. Workers act in solidarity and seek to do "what is good" through their work. Flexibility, autonomy and accomplishment are the watchwords. Society is split on the subject of the virtues and dangers of new technologies...

By imagining these four exaggerated scenarios, PwC has opened the debate on the future workforce. The report goes on to examine the challenges posed for human resources management. Read it in full to find out more.



The (near) future of payments up close

Evolve or disappear: players in the payment sector have to predict the future in order to adapt to a constantly changing market. The future is bright for those who are up to the challenge. That was the conclusion of a study carried out by Accenture.

Generation Z will have the power

According to Accenture, young people born after 1995 will have a great influence over changes to payment methods.These future adults, who were brought up digitally and raised "by" Google and Facebook, want everything straight away and easily. Currently, 69% of them already use banking apps (in comparison with 17% of baby boomers). More than ever, payments will have to meet their ultra-connected needs.

The rush towards "customer experience"

Already under the influence of new generations, the payment universe will no longer be able to limit itself to transactions. Consumers want more, including more services (in a wider sense) throughout their transactions. Companies that are capable of offering a "complete journey" to their customers will hold their attention and gain a real competitive advantage.

Mobile payments take off

Apps and open banking will continue to necessitate mobile payment as a rule, but only so long as the sector's players are able to meet the expectations of their consumers. How will they get there? The race for a unique app that can group all the information and banking transactions in one place is well and truly on. The first company to capture this market will have a great head-start.

A revolution in benefits

Rewards and benefits linked to payment cards now seem outdated and unsuited. In fact, American customers say that they are ready (48%) to change banks just to take advantage of offers that are better, more accessible (online) and fit in with their lifestyles. What will the rewards of the future be like? They will be based on customer experience!

Stronger together

In the face of the challenges that await them, the players in the sector will have to rely more than ever on the strength of their networks. This is an indispensable condition for remaining agile, flexible, connected and effective enough to respond to changes in the market, without increasing investment or the risks.

Fintechs and banks: an engagement announced

In the same vein (regarding increasing collaboration), Accenture points out that banks and fintech start-ups will inevitably work more closely together (and that they complement one another). While the former will bring to the table their brand's legitimacy, expertise and market size, the latter will provide agility and technological innovation. The fruits of this union will produce innovation in payments.

The power of technology

Will coding see off credit and debit cards? This is one of the predictions of the study. For example, thanks to advances in computing, account numbers will be replaced by unique temporary codes. The widely-used token is just a taster of what is to come before a revolutionary surge of several technologies hits payment methods (biometrics, blockchain, augmented reality, etc.).

Payments anywhere

The relationships between technology and transactions are also going to change, in particular through the increasing number of payment terminals and methods. The digital revolution will therefore affect the way in which payments are accepted, but also the stakeholders in these transactions. This will see the emergence of a new kind of bilateral relationship, where anyone can become a seller.

The constant battle against fraud

As the study points out, the technological methods used for fraud are also evolving at top speed. The stakeholders in the payment sector will therefore have to be extremely innovative in order to fight the fraudsters.

Redesigning infrastructure

Accenture's message is clear: traditional companies will not survive without completely overhauling and modernising their current payment infrastructure. What should replace them? Systems that are flexible, open and agile.

(Source: Accenture

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