Paying your electricity or gas bill has become very complicated for many traders. Many of them therefore adopt solutions to save money.
Electricity has become a big expense item for merchants, which was not the case before. A store is energy-intensive because there is often air conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter, and lots of lights, which make shopping more attractive.
Daniel, manager of a store in Namur, tells us that he doesn’t know how he will pay his electricity bill: “I have an additional €5,000 to hand over, I already put in almost €1,000 per month. I did the math, I’m at 81€ a day, as soon as I open the door“.
Faced with this increase, many traders are adopting solutions. From now on, Daniel turns off the light in his window, and puts the air conditioning on the minimum: “You really have to be careful what you do“.
Owner of a bakery and pastry shop in Suarlée (Namur), Florence sees her gas bill increase drastically. The ovens work there 14 hours a day, six days a week, whatever the season. This cost becomes very difficult to compress: “We always try to have a rational use of the ovens. So only heat them when they are full. But we cannot afford to reduce consumption since the product must be cooked to be sold.“ she explains.
These increases, the bakery only passed them on once in the price of bread and pastries: “As we sell our products to the final consumer, it is difficult to pass on these increases at the same level. We will come to a time when we will exceed the psychological bar that people are willing to put on bread” justifies Florence.
Catherine is the manager of a clothing store in Wavre. She, too, has decided to act on several levels to reduce her consumption: “We no longer turn on all the spotlights, but one out of two. In addition it gives us less heat, so we use less air conditioning“. As in Daniel’s shop, his window no longer shines at night: “It was on a timer, and went off at 1am. Now when the store is closed, the lights go out“Other merchants have opted for LEDs, which consume less energy, or have invested in solar panels.
The Union des Classes Moyennes (UCM) has just carried out a survey of the self-employed and SMEs. Result: 6 out of 10 have a drop in their profitability, because of the energy crisis. “For merchants, this is arguably even more important, since they have extremely high energy bills.“says Thierry Evens, the spokesperson for the UCM.
The UCM asks that the Walloon region and the Brussels region help traders who want to invest in renewable energies. According to the Union, this would allow these independents to survive and pay their bills. Currently, many stores have their tills empty, due to the health crisis, and therefore cannot afford solar panels.