Expats that enjoy shopping in department stores will be disappointed by the lack of options in the Netherlands. With the Hudson’s Bay chain closure, it leaves only De Bijenkorf at the high end and Hema at the low end of the market.
DE BIJENKORF – The Bijenkorf (Beehive) sits as sole department store in the Netherlands servicing the high end of the market. Its founding dates back to the late 1800’s. The largest and oldest De Bijenkorf location is on Dam Square in Amsterdam. The majestic building opened in 1915. Within 15 years there were three Bijenkorf locations (The Hague – 1926, Rotterdam – 1930). The company has had several different owners over the years and in 2011 was bought by the Selfridges Group Limited (UK). The largest stores have undergone major renovations since that time while the chain has been trimmed from 12 locations down to 7 (including Amstelveen, Eindhoven, Maastricht and Utrecht).
De Bijenkorf is focused on offering a ‘luxury experience’ with an assortment that includes such designer labels as Balenciaga, Givenchy, Gucci, Saint Laurent and Valentino. It sells clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and children as well as jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances, bedding, home decor, tableware, books, stationery, small electrics, luggage and gifts.
HUDSON’S BAY – The Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay announced in early 2016 that it would be entering the Dutch marketplace with early plans for some 20 locations in the Netherlands, most of which would be in former V&D (a Dutch department store chain which went bankrupt in January 2016) buildings. After extensive renovations to the sites, 10 Hudson’s Bay department stores opened their doors between late August and mid-October in 2017.
Troubles began almost immediately with the retailer failing to connect with potential customers, who had assumed Hudson’s Bay would fill the void left when the moderate V&D department store chain went out of business. Instead the new stores opened with a high-end assortment with major similarities to that of De Bijenkorf. By early 2018, adjustments were already being made to the merchandise mix, with popular Dutch brands added and international labels culled.
By end of 2018, it was reported that the chain had already lost hundreds of millions of euros. Still, the retailer went ahead with additional store openings adding 3 more in the spring of 2019, bringing the total number Hudson’s Bay department stores in the Netherlands to 15 by the end of March.
Following an announcement in summer 2019 that parent company HBC had reached an agreement to sell all its remaining interest in its German operations to partner Sigma Retail that did not include the Dutch department stores, the writing was on the wall. Finally in September 2019, leaked stockholder communication made it clear that the company would be exiting the Netherlands by the end of year.
Hudson’s Bay department stores in the Netherlands were closed down by end of December 2019.
PEEK & CLOPPENBURG
P&C – Peek & Cloppenburg is a German retailer many consumers think of more as a department store than a specialty chain due to its large multi-level stores located in the 3 biggest Dutch cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. In reality, Peek & Cloppenburg is a clothing retailer selling branded apparel and accessories for men, women and children from labels such as G-Star RAW, Esprit, .s Oliver and Tommy Hilfiger. P&C does not sell other product categories offered in true ‘department stores’ such as cosmetics, shoes and home decor.
In 2019, Peek & Cloppenburg launched a Dutch web shop which offers delivery to customers in the Netherlands for the first time.
HEMA – This mainstay on the Dutch High Street has consistently been voted ‘favorite department store in the Netherlands’ in multiple consumer surveys. Although technically Hema is more a mass merchant than an actual department store (since it does not sell merchandise from multiple brands), the general public considers Hema a department store. It sells low-priced, own-label clothing (men, women, kids, babies), health and beauty aids, kitchen utensils and tableware, bedding, bath linens, curtains, school supplies and toys. The retailer is also known for its bakery section that offers a tight assortment of fresh-baked breads, rolls, pastries and cakes, along with snacks, candy, coffee and wine.
It’s interesting to note that the Hema store chain, with its low-priced assortment, was founded over 90 years ago by the same family who founded the high-end De Bijenkorf department stores. Over the course of the last century, the Hema store chain has grown both in the Netherlands and abroad, and changed ownership several times. In 2018, Hema was sold by the British investment group Lion’s Capital to Ramphastos Investments, which is headed by Dutch enterpreneur Marcel Boekhoorn.
Hema’s 500+ store locations in the Netherlands range in size from small convenience shops in train stations and gas stations to large, multi-level, free-standing stores in city centers including The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen and Eindhoven.