Following a complicated year 2020, the retail sector is getting back into shape, says Nicolas Henckes, director of the Luxembourg trade confederation (CLC).
The CLC represents around 11,000 companies in the retail, transport and services sectors, making up around 22% of GPD and 100,000 jobs, according to the group. Henckes gives an outlook on the challenges ahead.
How has the CLC transformed in the face of the crisis and new demands from your members?
Nicolas Henckes: We had already planned to complement our services, which is why we developed a legal department, training, and awareness-raising conferences. One of the missions given to me by Fernand Ernster [president of the CLC, editor’s note] when we decided to collaborate in 2017 was to increase the value attributed to a CLC fee [it currently ranges from €250 to €17,000 depending on the size of the company, editor’s note]. This reorganisation was carried out successfully three or four months before the arrival of covid. In the end, we had to use these new capacities for the emergency service linked to covid.
How do you see the situation today and how will the CLC readjust?
We are in a gradual restart of what we hope is more normal activity. We will clearly continue to develop our service offering for our members. The choices we have made, and which are starting to be visible, are collaborations with different members to offer services at reduced prices, member benefits, and club mode operation. The goal is to have a kind of marketplace that will allow each member of the CLC to develop their business, to find partners, whether they are suppliers, clients, consultants or lawyers. So that there is this dynamic that is created within this employers’ federation.
Obviously, we will continue our lobbying role in favour of trade interests in Luxembourg. The main course of action, at present, concerns the continuation of support for the retail trade, especially in the city centre. It was already suffering before and was hit hard by the closures and restrictions related to the crisis. We are currently negotiating for a renewal of the pro-trade pact with the ministry of small and medium-sized enterprises. We hope to be able to find an agreement quickly.
What does this pro-trade pact foresee?
A whole series of actions. In recent years, it has notably provided for the creation of the commercial cadastre, which is now carried out and transferred to an economic interest group (GIE). Details will be announced by the minister when the last finishing touches have been made. We have organised conferences in different cities on how to run retail businesses, promote their development…
What would you like to put in place via this renewed pact?
We have always tried to develop statistical data. This will be one of the major axes for the years to come–no longer having a situation where each city does as it feels without having objective data on customer traffic, but to allow coordination, to compare what does or doesn’t work, so that all cities can do well, as well as the traders who reside there.
Next, we want to develop the diversity of shops in city centres. To avoid having homogeneous city centres with the same brands all over the place, we are considering looking for them abroad, bring them to Luxembourg, show them around, show them the opportunities. Brands that are not represented at all here, in order to create a dynamic that will be beneficial for all.
Library photo: Maison Moderne archives
Journalist: Mathilde Obert & Delano staff