Shipping & Logistics

Infrastructure

Belgium on its own could actually be described as three different countries; although technically one country it is made of three distinct regions, with Flanders in the north and Wallonia in the south. From a federal perspective, Brussels is treated as a separate region, with both French and Dutch being official languages. International businesses should be aware that French is spoken in Wallonia and Dutch spoken in Flanders and therefore websites may need to be available in more than one language if they are to appeal to shoppers in these areas. Being a founder member of the European Union and host to the epicentre of the EU’s bureaucracy in Brussels, Belgium plays an important role as an international crossroads. Domestically however, its form of government can make it slow to react to economic changes and other social challenges. As the home to the European Commission, English is a main language and international trade is at its core; providing opportunities for international merchants. Belgium ranked 9th in the AT Kearney global rankings of ecommerce readiness. A er Brussels, Antwerp is the largest city in Belgium. With a commercial lineage, including diamond trading, and Europe’s second largest port after Rotterdam, the city is a gateway to central Europe with excellent road, rail and canal networks.

In the Dutch and Belgian markets there are 22 million people in the 15-79 age group living in an area of 72,000 sq km. This population density creates a compact online community with excellent road, rail and air transport links, making both countries easy to access from EU and international states. Internationally available carriers, including domestic brands, can provide a full range of services ranging from next day services to economy. As would be expected, many of these can handle tax and duties payments as part of their service. As in any market, consumers expect quality service and international merchants need to match local standards, such as Dutch consumers expecting deliveries in less than 5 days. The ability to process returns is important to all consumers and consumers in both countries have the legal right to do so within 14 days a er the date of delivery.

Bpost is still the most popular logistics carriers in Belgium as 59% of the companies surveyed made use of their services. Kiala (39%), DPD (24%) and TNT PostPakketService (12%) are also quite popular.

Domestic Carriers

Bpost is still the most popular logistics carriers in Belgium as 59% of the companies surveyed made use of their services. Kiala (39%), DPD (24%) and TNT PostPakketService (12%) are also quite popular.

In addition to the global carriers mentioned eblow (which will also be domestic carriers in some markets), domestic carriers based in the retailer’s own market will often accept online retail orders and ship them to Belgium through third parties. Domestic carriers will sub-contract the onward shipment, often to a global carriers or postal service, but for a retailer holding a contract with a domestic carrier this can be a natural starting point for accessing services in cross-border markets. Finding out what options they provide can be a useful benchmark. Service times will vary depending on the line haul arrangements in place and the service partner chosen.

Global Carriers

Fed Ex / TNT

These two companies have now combined and dependent on the service required and the point of origin, different services may be ffered. As examples transit times are shown from the UK and the US:

  • Fed Ex - International Priority - 2 business day to main centres – from the US
  • Fed Ex - International Economy - 2 to 5 business days – from the US
  • TNT Economy Express - 2-day delivery - from the UK
  • TNT Express - Next day delivery - from the UK

UPS

UPS offers a range of services and delivery times to Belgium subject to country of origin and the specific destination. The example service times below are from the UK from where all the services are available except UPS Expedited (which applies only to non-EU destinations). UPS services are designed for business deliveries and the service times shown are for delivery to business areas. Residential / rural areas may take a little longer and may incur a surcharge.

  • UPS Express Plus – next business day – delivery by 09:00
  • UPS Express – next business day – delivery typically by 10:30 noon or by 12:00
  • UPS Express Saver – delivery by end of next business day
  • UPS Expedited – 2-5 business days – delivery by end of day – 2 days from the UK
  • UPS Standard – day definite by date scheduled – delivery during the day - 2 days from the UK

The Express services come with a money back guarantee should the delivery be attempted after the specified time.

DHL

DHL offers four service options to Belgium with example transit times to main centres shown below – deliveries to remote areas may take slightly longer:

  • Export Express 09:00 delivery the next possible working day
  • Export Express 12:00 delivery the next possible working day
  • Export Express Worldwide - Guaranteed delivery by the end of the next possible working day
  • Export Economy Select

For ecommerce deliveries it is likely that the most viable option will be Export Economy Select where, by example delivery from the UK is 2 working days.

DPD

DPD offers four main international services to Belgium with availability and transit times dependent on the origin of the shipments:

  • DPD Direct – a consolidation service with transit times of 3 to 4-days from the UK
  • DPD Classic – offers an intra Europe service with delivery typically between 2 and 6 days » 2 days from the UK
  • DPD Air Classic – typically offering global delivery in between 3 and 10 days » 3 to 4-days days from the UK
  • DPD Express - typically offering global delivery in between 2 and 8 days » 2 days from the UK

Delivery Times

The speed of delivery available from a retailer is important to consumers when they are making the decision to shop with them. 42% of Belgium consumers consider it important that a maximum 3-day delivery option should be on o er 13.

• Belgium shoppers are a li le less demanding with 15% looking for a 1 to 2-day delivery and 62% in 3 to 5 days.

The UPS study also confirms that the majority of Dutch consumers (76%) expect next day delivery as the norm from local retailers, compared with an average 38% of shoppers in the other European countries surveyed where a 2-day delivery is acceptable (60%).

Import Duties

The question of taxes and duties needs to be referenced under the heading of logistics because any error can clearly delay clearance and delivery to the customer. The delivery operator selected will be able to provide full details and advice on the necessary documentation and processes and some can go further by pre-clearing orders whilst the goods are in transit or at the start of their journey using a Consumer Duty Paid process. This can be done using the HTS (Harmonised Tariff Schedule) code assigned to each product category and can reduce delivery times and remove a potential barrier of having the goods held when they arrive in Belgium. Retailers are therefore advised to specifically ask what their chosen delivery partner can do to facilitate customs clearance and duty calculation / collection. Of course as a member of the European Union dispatches from within the European Union to Belgium will not be subject to customs clearance.

For both the Dutch and Belgian markets, there is a €150 threshold8 above which consumers are expected to pay duties. For businesses that aren’t resident in Belgium and sell goods to consumers via the internet, there is a €35,0009 threshold before registration is compulsory. For consignments up to €22, consumers aren’t liable for either VAT or duties when purchasing online from a non-EU business. Between €22 and €150, VAT becomes due but duties aren’t applied. Over €150 and both VAT and duties become chargeable. Alcohol, perfumes and toilet waters attract excise duty at any value.

Population:

11.4 million

GDP:

$467.9 billion

OECD Risk Score:

0