Our latest survey takes the temperature of the installation market in the EU’s ninth-largest economy.
Belgium’s GDP per capita exceeds the average for the EU as a whole – and a couple of years ago was running ahead of that of the UK and even Germany. When it comes to the state of its installed AV market, however, nearly two-thirds of respondents to our latest country survey saw confidence levels as flat compared with six months ago; of the remainder, more saw them rising than falling.
A similar majority, again nearly two-thirds, felt that their company’s revenues would rise, with the bulk of these putting a figure of more than 5% on the increase. A very small minority of respondents forecast a small decline in revenue.
Predicted trends in various vertical markets are shown in the table. We were surprised to see bars, clubs and restaurants at the bottom of the list.
As usual, we next asked respondents to choose, from a list of six, the one issue causing their business the greatest concern. Around two-fifths of the sample chose ‘clients going for lowest price rather than best value’. “By always going for the lowest price, quality of service is not achievable,” commented a consultant. Knowledge gaps on the part of clients was cited as an underlying cause of this by one manufacturer: “We see more and more that people look at price only and are no longer able to compare the specifications due to complexity and lack of knowledge.” The other significant business concern, chosen by around a quarter of respondents, was falling margins.
We also asked our survey if they felt the total number of players in the Belgian market was increasing or decreasing. The most popular answer was ‘no change’, chosen by around half the sample, with about a quarter feeling that the number was decreasing. “It seems the market isn’t hugely expansive, and purchases are increasingly cost-driven, leaving more service-oriented companies stranded,” remarked a consultant.
We closed the survey by asking what people would change, if they could, about the way the Belgian installation market works. One common theme among these answers was acting to prevent price erosion: manufacturers and distributors somehow imposing minimum sales prices, or not allowing end-users access to wholesale prices online. Another set of comments centred around educating end users to appreciate more than simply price: raising their levels of technical knowledge, or making them more aware of the value of brand loyalty. And one respondent felt that the tender market did not always work in favour of the final client – with some importers and distributors participating directly in tender bids.