The management of Wibra Belgium announced at an extraordinary works council on Monday morning that it would request a judicial reorganisation. Years of losses and the effects of coronavirus make “the current situation untenable.” Wibra has 81 branches and 400 employees in our country. It is not clear how many jobs are at risk of being lost and how many shops are closing.
Wibra, the Dutch discounter founded in Gelderland in 1956 and which caused a sensation with the sale of clothing, textiles, household goods, cleaning products, handicrafts, kitchen utensils, toys and other related items, is in bad paper. “The current situation is untenable and the company must intervene now so as not to be forced to cease operations.”
“Careful improvement” repealed
In Wibra it has been like this for a while. “The world is changing, and we have to go. It’s no longer like opening your doors, putting a few bins where you put the trade down and then selling it at low prices,” CEO Bas Duijsens said in May 2019. But without touching the DNA of the FIRMA: “We have survived the turbulent years with this concept and will certainly not throw the child with the bathwater.”
The 81 Belgian Wibra stores have been suffering for some time from the difficult economic climate, high labour costs and increasing competition (including Action). According to Wibra, Belgian stores have been making losses for years. Several remedial measures were taken in 2019: better inventory management, a customer-specific marketing mix and the closure of six Wibra stores. “Thanks to these interventions, the figures in Belgium over the last six months have been cautious. But the Corona pandemic has fully compensated for this upward trend,” the management reports. “The loss-making Belgian activities have traditionally been absorbed and compensated by the Group’s other activities, but in the current context this is no longer possible.”
“Staying active in Belgium”
And so the management demands a judicial reorganisation. The goal: to look for potential buyers in order to continue some of the activities. “We are fully aware of the impact of this announcement on our employees. However, we are convinced that this judicial reorganisation is necessary if we want to give Wibra Belgium a sustainable future,” says spokesman Maarten Hagg. “Wibra is keen to remain active in Belgium and offer a future to as many shops and employees as possible. We are therefore a candidate for a reboot in a slimmed-down version.”