As we all know, Belgium is a shopping paradise where you can shop 24/7 (some irony included). The good news is that winter sales have started today; and the third day of the year is reserved for this local tradition (sounds better than: ‘It is strictly forbidden to advertise any sales before’)!
Anyway, many shops prepared for this special event in a rather surprising way: shops closed yesterday around 4.30 pm (!) in order to prepare the sales. Of course this is rather annoying for the customers, but since this is Belgium we should not be surprised… and this is only the tip of the iceberg! To get the full picture about sales and competition principles in Belgium read this excellent article in The Economist:
During the twice-yearly pre-sales blackouts (there are also summer sales) a hundred inspectors from the Belgian economics ministry scour the country for advertisements, window stickers or price tags that even hint at discounts. A Prohibition-style speakeasy culture has sprung up in response. Gambits include putting question-marks on price tags and advertising “friendly prices”. Chic boutiques in Brussels telephone favoured customers or send them “privilege cards”, inviting them to pop in for an early visit. Controls must be “extremely severe” to ensure that the rules stick, explains Robert Geurts of the economics ministry, who glories in the title of director-general for regulation and organisation of the market. Inspectors receive many tips by telephone as rival shopkeepers denounce each other.
If all this sounds fundamentally illiberal, that is because it is.