Retail & fashion

Retail & fashion capital

Antwerp is home to flagship stores and branches from all major retailers around the world. Next to these global names, a seamingly endless row of smaller, local boutiques with collections from up-and-coming fashion designers line the streets. You can find everything here – from grungy street style to catwalk.

Even those who don’t enjoy clothes shopping might have a change of heart here, where one-off boutiques such as glove purveyor Huis A. Boon line cobblestoned streets and where grand designer stores — including those of local fashion stars Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester — display a refreshing lack of attitude.

(National Geographic: Intelligent Travel)

Why Antwerp?


International chains in Antwerp.
That’s more than in Brussels.

5.6 million

People within a radius of 60 km around Antwerp.

10 000

Visitors per hour at the Meir on busy days.


Of all European purchasing power is located in a 500 km radius around Antwerp.

High spending potential

The atmosphere in Antwerp is one of enjoyment and relaxation, which attracts visitors of all ages who are quite prepared to spend their money on gourmet dining, shopping, an afternoon or a weekend of culture and fun. The quality of life is high, and this is evident to every visitor.

Throughout Belgium, the GDP per capita – and hence purchasing power – is 19% higher than the average in Europe. In the Province of Antwerp, the GDP is 38% higher, and even 45% in the District of Antwerp. And shoppers choose Antwerp as their favourite place to spend their income.

The major international companies in and around Antwerp also attract a steady stream of international workers. Moneyed expats love all the comforts that the city offers. They also feel at home in Antwerp.

Retail DNA

Retail is ingrained in Antwerp. Trade is a crucial part of the city’s rich history and has helped shape the streets and magnificent buildings.

But Antwerp does not remain stuck in the past. Growth is an integral part of the city's DNA. The areas in and around the centre are constantly changing and are turning Antwerp into a magnet for innovation and creativity.

This is the place where trends start, entrepreneurs launch new ideas and shoppers discover the latest fads. And the city? Provides space, is being moulded and is open to everything.

Antwerp is like a big lab where new trends and new names crop up first.

(Denys De Kempe, retail manager CBRE)

of the national and international retailers called Antwerp their favourite shopping city.

retail chains (national and international) have a store in Antwerp.

visitors annually find their way to the Meir, Antwerp’s main shopping street. All big international retailers are represented here, ranging from H&M, Esprit, Uniqlo, right through to Urban Outfitters.

Wi-Fi sensors collect data in the Antwerp city centre.

That is how much the district of Antwerp’s GDP per capita is above the European average.

of all polished diamonds worldwide pass through Antwerp’s diamond district, and a whopping 84% of all rough diamonds. ‘Cut in Antwerp’ is the world’s highest quality mark for a cut diamond.

Stores by sector

Industry Number of shops %
food 1 469 14.89
fashion and clothing 968 9.81
jewellery and opticians 312 3.16
personal care 320 3.24
household 214 2.17
sports, games and hobbies 184 1.86
electronics, brown and white goods 218 2.21
DIY and garden 237 2.40
car and bicycle 402 4.07
living 307 3.11
catering 2 663 27
culture and leisure 371 3.76
services 1 939 19.66
other 257 2.60
TOTAL 9 861 100

(Source: CityTraffic, Locatus)

By 1993, the Belgians had become a force to be reckoned with. Leading the pack are Margiela, Demeulemeester and Van Noten. Each with their own unique aesthetic, they, along with Helmut Lang and Miuccia Prada, help define the new mood of the '90s: minimalist, cerebral, and frequently deconstructed. Antwerp becomes an internationally recognized breeding ground for innovative talent.

(New York Magazine)

9 shopping areas in the Antwerp city center

Click the zones on the map to discover the profile of each shopping area.


Shopping centres outside the centre

The different districts of Antwerp have clearly designated commercial centres alongside bustling shopping streets. Chains like C&A, Hema and Blokker complement the range of local shops. These centres are easily accessible both by public transport and by car, and are therefore preferred by many shoppers. The largest district centres are Kiel-Abdijstraat, Wilrijk-Bist and Merksem-Bredabaan.

Retail parks can find the much-needed space along Noorderlaan, Boomsesteenweg and Bredabaan. These are mostly chains for furniture, electronics, interior and DIY products, such as Ikea, Brico, Media Markt and Cool Blue. These zones are a mecca for the efficient shopper: easily accessible and lots of parking space. And what if you’ve bought large items? They can simply be delivered to your home.

Rental prices

Commercial space in one of the main shopping areas in Antwerp … how much does that cost?

Zone Average rent in 2015
Meir EUR 2 000 - 2 200 / m² / year
Wilde Zee - Korte Gasthuisstraat EUR 1 750 - 1 900 / m² / year
Schuttershofstraat EUR 1 500 - 1 800 / m² / year
Huidevettersstraat EUR 1 500 - 1 750 / m² / year
Wilde Zee - Wiegstraat/Groendalstraat EUR 1 000 - 1 500 / m² / year
Kammenstraat EUR 400 - 750 / m² / year
Nationalestraat EUR 300 - 750 / m² / year

(estimated rents, e.g. retail space 150 m² with min. 5 meter front, sources: Hugo Ceusters-SCMS and Hayen-Paris 2018)

Footfall measurements on shopping streets

In recent years, Antwerp has conducted regular footfall counts in the city centre. Over that period of time, there wasn't a system making sure continuous insight into the crowds visiting Antwerp city centre could be reliably obtained. Manual counts or estimates were carried out by security forces during major events. Additionally, through the survey conducted by the consultancy firm Locatus, the City of Antwerp was able to access manual footfall counts for the shopping district (2010-2012). Technology has evolved in recent years and there are plenty of new ways to understand the crowds visiting the centre.  

Since 1 January 2016, and after a trial period of two years, Antwerp signed a contract with the technology and research firm The Retail Factory in collaboration with City Traffic. The firm has developed footfall counting know-how based on WiFi sensors. The technology uses the signals emitted by mobile phones or other electronic devices when searching for WiFi networks. The sensor records the number of signals received from people passing by. On this basis (and using extrapolation), the actual number of passersby in the shopping street can be estimated. 

The extrapolation factors relate to the mobile phone ownership, the probability that a consumer has enabled the WiFi connection, etc. This conversion factor can be further optimized by conducting calibrations on a regular basis. To that end, the firm has even installed a permanent calibration camera near one of the WiFi sensors. The system provides a reliable estimate of the crowds, even though the result can never be interpreted as an exact value.

History for the Meir count point

The first graph shows the monthly footfall, since September 2014. This month was selected, because it is in September that the first shopping Sunday in Antwerp city centre was organised and this is how we obtain the exact monthly figures for the 2014-2016 two-year period. 

Here are some conclusions from the graph:

  1. the average footfall per month on the Meir is 1.3 million;
  2. the peaks correspond to the Christmas period and the sales when 1.5 and 1.8 million passersby respectively were counted;
  3. we also see the impact of bad weather (June 2016) and the terrorist attacks (March 2016).

Average footfall on a Saturday 

The second graph shows the average monthly footfall on a Saturday, since September 2014. 

Here are some conclusions from the graph:

  1. the average footfall on a Saturday on the Meir is 67,110;
  2. we keep seeing the same waves of crowds coming back: a peak in December/January, followed by a dip in February, after which the numbers rise again until the peak of the July sales. Then again a dip in August and again a rise in the numbers until the peak in December/January;
  3. the peaks correspond to the Christmas period and the sales when 80,000 and 100,000 passersby respectively were counted;
  4. we also see the impact of, for example, bad weather (June 2016).

Results for all WiFi sensors

Since June 2016, another 22 WiFi sensors have been activated, giving us insight into the crowds present at 25 locations in Antwerp city centre. Another advantage is that these new WiFi sensors are linked to a revamped dashboard allowing us to investigate further the data and the profile of the people counted (passersby/visitor/shopper). 

Average monthly footfall
The first graph shows the average footfall counted by the WiFi sensors. Not all 25 count points are active: in the graphs in this quarterly report, the Grote Markt/Kaasrui count point, which was installed in late September 2016, is not yet counted. At the Nationalestraat/1 count point (Fashion Museum) there is only data from one month (September 2016) and at the Komedieplaats measuring point, the data included is from July 2016.

In shopping streets such as Volkstraat, Nationalestraat/1 and Kloosterstraat, we have a monthly footfall of more than 100,000. The main flow of passersby is clearly following the Station-Meir-Grote Markt axis.

Distinction between passersby, shoppers and visitors

The next graphs provide more data on the effective ratio of visitors and shoppers against the measured footfall (the crowds), giving more insight into this distinction.

In some centres, most of the footfall can clearly be attributed to shoppers between 9:00 and 19:00. Wilde Zee stands out (with Schrijnwerkersstraat, Korte Gasthuisstraat and Lombardenvest among others) with more than 90% of footfall consisting of  shoppers. They also clearly show the areas where there is more evening activity (mainly footfall of people going to restaurants): Leopold de Waelplaats (hospitality centre in south), Suikerrui and Grote Markt all attract more than one third of footfall in the evening or at night time (19:00 - 9:00).

The final graph represents the absolute numbers of solely shoppers (9:00 - 19:00) and solely visitors by WiFi sensor.

With major assets such as 17 million shoppers per year choosing the Meir, competitive rental prices, diverse and unique shopping locations and developments and 60% of Europe’s purchasing power within a 500 km radius, Antwerp has attracted the attention of fDi Intelligence, The Financial Times magazine.
With major assets such as 17 million shoppers per year choosing the Meir, competitive rental prices, diverse and unique shopping locations and developments and 60% of Europe’s purchasing power within a 500 km radius, Antwerp has attracted the attention of fDi Intelligence, The Financial Times magazine.
In Antwerp, the fashion hotspot of Europe, The Canvas opened a sustainable marketplace for fashion, art and experiences, as they describe themselves.
The city of Antwerp cannot be missed at the 25th edition of the most important retail trade show in Europe: MAPIC. Retailers, investors, and cities such as Antwerp will be gathering in Cannes from 13-15 November. And just like previous years, the city of Antwerp wants to use its presence at the show to convince retailers and investors of its strengths as a retail city, thereby increasing its international visibility as a location worthy of investment.