Though a relatively small country (it has a population of 11.2 million), Belgium is a good bellwether for the EU as a whole, as it is so strongly integrated into the eurozone economy – with 80% of its trade being with fellow member states. However, it would be wrong to think of it as a homogeneous whole – there are marked economic differences between the regions of Flanders (home to familiar names such as Barco, Audioprof and PVS) and Wallonia, and the capital, Brussels.
Turning to our survey results: nearly all respondents felt that general levels of confidence in the Belgian installation sector are the same as six months ago. But on a more positive note, nearly all were expecting their revenue to increase over the next 12 months, with many expecting a figure of more than 5%.
Vertical market sectors identified as showing the strongest growth potential over the coming year include sports venues, corporate and performing arts venues. Of the nine verticals we asked about, only houses of worship showed an overall negative trend prediction.
When we asked about issues of concern, no single answer predominated. The issues that were most cited will be familiar to regular readers of our country surveys: clients going for lowest price rather than best value; being undercut by competitors; and falling margins. Also cited as concerns were credit terms/cashflow issues, and poorly qualified newcomers distorting the market. As one wrote: “We specialise in video-mapping content and implementation on site. Inexperienced newcomers are making cheaper projections. There are mistakes […which] the client comes to us to change, but they don’t understand that we are expensive because organisation and good hardware cost.”
When we asked for advice they would give manufacturers entering the market, one respondent said: “Please perform your R&D in a professional way, rather then selling a black box which gives the early adopters a headache. For this reason I find ‘firmware updates’ a dangerous given. Too many manufacturers count on the fact that they will deal with the problems once the integrator is exploring them. This one of the most annoying issues in our system integrator world.”
In terms of advice to integrators, one respondent made the point that clients tend to think in terms of large concepts such as smart buildings, so integrators should offer total solutions rather than attempting to specialise.
Taking these results as a whole, it’s hard to summarise the mood of our survey pool. Growth is expected in nearly all sectors, and revenues are expected to rise – but confidence is flat, and numerous concerns, many of them financial, are playing on people’s minds. It seems that the mood of the country’s installation sector is as diverse as its overall economic picture.