Student’s key takeaways from the Study trip to Brussels

A student group at the European Commission (photo: Florian Keller)

In order to find out and understand what students have learned during the Study trip to Brussels, short interviews with six students have been conducted.

The question that has been asked focused on the key takeaways from the study trip that included visits and presentations of various institutions. The students had the privilege to visit and talk to representatives of the following institutions: SwissCore, European Commission, MedTech Europe, Mission of Switzerland to the EU (Swiss Confederation), Digitaleurope and Economiesuisse.

The following question has been asked to six students:
What are, in your eyes, the key takeaways from the study trip to Brussels? (Things that you have learned, surprised you, or were new to you) Please formulate your answer in one to maximum four sentences.

 

 “I wasn’t aware that the EU was located in Brussels. For me, this trip highlighted how interconnected all of Europe is with all the different collaborating representatives.” –  Emily Reddish

 

 

“The work of lobbyists is very important for different industry sectors. Depending on cultural differences, their work is differently valued. European regulation is difficult and it takes a long time to implement – also, in national laws. On the other hand, it “opens doors” for companies, due to the fact that Europe is a huge single market.” – Martin Müller

 

“I was not aware lobbying for countries’ interest was a thing, and that it was so developed and transparently explained. “  – Clément Herpe

 

“I’ve been surprised by the impact of Brexit. During our discussions, experts always referred to it that it would affect regulations, policies and the EU system. Even though I was aware of the influence, I think speaking with experts made it even more realistic to me, that the EU is going under changes.” – Anne-Sophie Couvez

 

“What surprised me when being in Brussels and listening to the presentations, was that many organizations go there in order to execute their influence and to represent an economy or industry. Francois Baur, who is a lobbyist for Swiss industries, even referred to it as “the dark force”. A lot of decisions are taken in an informal environment, so I got the opinion that networking is part of these people’s daily business.” –  Ara Ankeshian

 

“I was impressed about the concentration of power in Brussels and the number of people involved. Moreover, I have learned how lobbying works and how lobbies represent Switzerland in Europe. Finally, it was important to learn the role that the politics play for the medtech and automotive industries.” –  Sofia Velez

 

To conclude the individual opinions of six students about the study trip gathered through interviews, it can be said that all students were impressed by the power and force of lobbying as well as the institutional constellations that are present in Brussels. In addition, the interconnectivity of each EU country was found as crucial, also when looking at the recent case of Brexit. The study trip surely enriched the knowledge about various European constellations of all students and contributed an important part for the academic development of each individual.

 

By Florian Graf

Why opening a jogging equipment store in Brussels?

Why opening a jogging equipment store in Brussels?

 

During our weekend in Brussels we had time to explore the outdoor areas and the environment surrounding active people in the capital of Belgium. We have been asked to give recommendations to adapt a brand or product in the “jogging equipment” industry. Therefore, we investigate for the opening of a jogging equipment shop in the city.

To get more insights from the sport equipment industry of Brussels and to understand the possible adaptations that the company should make to be successful there, we approached the concept of the Contextual Intelligence. In particular, we made a city tour and looked for places where runners are training, explored the incentives of the city to encourage running and interviewed a successful athlete.

 

Environment

We went on an adventure tour! The impressions were, that there are many beautiful parks and buildings to pass by while running – sightseeing and jogging combined! We arranged an interview with the local expert Luman Kinali @luman_kinali, who provided us with valuable insights concerning the running tracks. He told us, that the most popular place for jogging is the beautiful river canal close to the city center. Furthermore, the city already organized running events like the ‘Brussels Night Run’, which took place last summer. This event aims at bringing people of Brussels, locals and foreigners, together to practice sports and bring the physically, mentally and socially aspects to society.

 

Infrastructure and Conditions

We went a step further and did some online research to gather more information. Brussels is one of the greenest European capitals, offering kilometers of running tracks with plenty of nature. In fact, there are 45 parks suitable for jogging activities. Therefore, Brussels offers everything a runner’s heart wants. However, the drawback about Brussels is the weather, with an average of 200 rainy days during the year.

 

Healthy Lifestyle & Competitors

Despite being famous for Belgian chocolate, beer and waffles…

Brussels also has a lot to offer to people willing to have a healthy lifestyle. We saw a lot of bio shops, healthy restaurants, smoothie places, protein product shops. You can find all global sport brands shops as well as local ones. In the city center, more than hundreds of shops are either specialized on jogging equipment or healthy nutrition to boost a healthy lifestyle.

Our recommendations

Considering the healthy lifestyle of Belgium people, Brussels is a very attractive city for the establishment of a jogging equipment store. The best location for a shop could be next to a park, where most of the runners are training, e.g. selling equipment like smart watches and other wearables. Furthermore, they could sell some rain apparels specially designed for running activities since the weather conditions are not ideal. Regarding advertising, it is recommended to use the local press as well as the dedicated events to inform about the opening of the shops. Also, they can gain advantage of EU initiatives promoting health worldwide to communicate about their opening and localization in Brussels.

Anton, Charlène, Diana, Emanuelle, Milica & Sead

 

Contextual Intelligence in Bruxelles – Vegetarian Restaurant

Trying to recognize all the relevant contextual factors, when opening up a vegetarian restaurant in Brussels, may be very difficult – if even possible. According to LeVif 5% of the Belgian population is vegetarian and the city of Brussels was considered to be Europe`s Veggie Capital in 2017. Nonetheless, this blog will provide a concise analysis of the vegetarian restaurant market with recommendations based on observations, inquiries, facts, and figures. For the analysis of a successful market entry of a foreign vegetarian restaurant the right positioning, location and main competitors are identified.

 

When Ana and Douglas arrived in Brussels, they were overwhelmed by the attributes of the city. The old town with its bricked houses was home to stylish waffle houses, cafes and restaurants with international menus. Ana and Douglas being from Zurich had really good expectations about what the city has to offer in terms of vegetarian food. However, on Saturday night the expectations of our two vegetarian group members were not fulfilled.

Ana and Douglas wanted to find out more about what the European capital can offer in terms of vegetarian food. Our group members approached locals to find out more about this phenomena and gathered interesting cultural insights. Belgium lies on the Atlantic coast of Europe and the consumption of seafood is deeply rooted in the local culture. Dishes such as mussels, meat stews, and different varieties of fish are among the most popular choices.

 When conducting first-research on the street of Brussels, our vegetarians discovered the famous vegetarian food chain Exki. The chain is represented with 20 stores spread across the whole city. Seasonal and regional products are what make Exkis special attracting not only vegetarian customers but also flexitarians. This creates a highly competitive environment for the town of Brussels.

 

After having visited different neighborhoods of the Belgian capital, our experts fell in love with the Marolles district. There they could find several vintage stores, street art, and markets just a perfect location for a specialized vegetarian restaurant. At the district, Ana and Douglas wanted to get first-hand insight from local establishment owners. Despite the high competition of Exki, the chain is not represented in the district of Marolles. Furthermore, according to ‘Bulletin’, a platform for Belgium’s international community, the number of vegetarians continues to grow steadily since the last decade.

As Brussels is known to be a multicultural city, it is essential to know the customer needs to understand the environment. In this case, the best way to apply and improve contextual intelligence would be to create a partnership with a local business. This way existing knowledge and experience are combined and can help the new businesses to adapt to local cultures. The best recommendation is to collaborate with Veganizer BXL, a local plant-based restaurant consultant. It offers trend-focused, restaurant-specific menu consulting with local insights.

 

Although Exki represents a very high degree of competition, our veggie experts are happy to have found a perfect location where to set up their vegetarian business in the beautiful area of Marolles.

 

 

 

Premium Fashion Brands For Men in Brussels

Premium fashion brand for men in Brussels
Giving the task to find the right setting for a premium fashion brand for men it is important to be aware of the context where they are going to operate. Therefore, the environment of Brussels has been analyzed to identify possible clusters. Furthermore, research has been done to measure market potential for premium fashion brand for men.

Current retail situation
Since the terror attack in 2016, fashion brands got cautious and some even cancelled their expansion plans of opening a store in Brussels city center. What is more, during the last years Brussels had many construction sites which made it even more unattractive for premium brand to locate their stores in the center. However, it has changed in recent months, there are more tourists than ever as Brussels recovered from the attacks. According to Cushman & Wakefield, the main real estate broker in Brussels, there is a positive trend towards opening new stores since mid of 2017. The main cluster where this trend can be observed is at the Boulevard de Waterloo. These findings are underlined by our observation which showed that many premium and luxury brands have a store in this street. Prada just opened a new store with Dior planning to do the same.

Market potential
Brussels is a business hub, as it is a political center. Therefore, many business men frequent the city. Many notable people, like presidents and important statesmen, stay at “The Hotel” during their business trips, which is also situated near these stores. Similar to Switzerland, all stores are closed on Sundays. The products do not have to be adjusted. First hand observations showed that many men wear hats, so the brand could also design such accessories as statement pieces. Furthermore, it advisable for the brand to offer the full business attire, because many of the other stores offer a similar selection. Competition is high in this area, so it can be seen as a cluster. For a premium brand it is important to be visible and present their nice displays

Recommendations
We have identified three locations where the brand could open its store. First, Boulevard de Waterloo which is the location for the most luxurious brands, like Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Secondly, we found the Galerie de la Port Louise which houses more male focused brands, like Boggi, Father & Sons and Bexley. Thirdly, we identified Avenue Louis, which is one of the main side streets of the Boulevard the Waterloo, where mostly premium rather than luxurious brands are located. Footfall is by far the highest at the Boulevard of Waterloo, therefore, we suggest opening a store to ensures high visibility. As a closing remark the group would like to emphasis that previous research showed that Belgium is one of the most upcoming retail markets in the future. Hence, the fashion brand should enter the market to profit from its growth.

 

The bike sharing market of Brussels – are there already too many sharks in the tank?

Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the European Union, is a people magnet with 1.139 million inhabitants and more than 6.78 million overnight stays of tourists per year. This leads to a high amount of car traffic on Brussels’ streets. For everyone who does not want spend time in traffic at every corner needs to use other ways of transportation – for example a bicycle! Sharing services are getting more and more popular and the bicycle sharing business is no exception for this. But, is it still recommendable to enter the existing market in Brussels as a bike sharing provider? Or are there already too many sharks in the tank?

Big sharks: Tough competition
Several bicycle sharing providers are already established in the market. The biggest market share has Villo. In 2017 their bright yellow bikes got rented more than 1,600,000 times. They offer regular bikes and when walking through the city centre, one passes a rental station every 500 meters. It should be also noted, that the government supports this provider. The first 30 rental minutes are for free, two hours cost for example 3.60 euros. Among the other competitors are also oBike or the electric bike provider Billy. Both providers do not work with pick-up and drop-off stations but offer the possibility to park the bike anywhere, as members use GPS to find the nearest bike.

Jumping into the tank: Existing opportunities for a market entry
Brussel keeps expanding its bike lanes, within the last 5 years the available lanes increased by 67%. The demand is still high, and people enjoy the flexibility that a rental bike provides. Tourists rent it for sightseeing and locals use it to commute faster as well as to contribute to a healthy lifestyle. When asking people at bike stations what their experience is, they comment that they mostly rent a bike on a daily basis. However, they also mention that the existing bikes are heavy, not very modern and Brussel itself offers a challenge due to its uneven paths. Additionally, sometimes the bikes pool all at one station while others are empty. Thus, a new provider could position itself as an electro bike sharing service with modern bikes and an optimized system of regulating the bikes at the stations. Offering additional safety equipment like helmets could help to differentiate itself from the competition.

A too crowded tank: The final market entry recommendation
After researching the bicycle sharing market of Brussels and having a look at several renting stations throughout the city, one has to come to the conclusion that a market entry for a new provider is not recommended. The existing competition is hard and well established. Others have tried and not succeeded. For example, the Hong Kong based provider GoBee Bikes stopped its service in Brussel after only three months as their bikes got “maliciously and severely damaged” and all the profit went into repairing the bikes. Thus, a bike rental provider should keep looking for “a bigger tank with less sharks”.

High-Quality Windows in Brussels

Windows are one of the critical components required in constructing sustainable building designs. As most of the energy flows in and out of a building through windows, technological innovation, intelligent designs and isolation have become major criteria for window production. Windows nowadays have provided comforts in terms of heating, cooling and lighting for better indoor environments. Moreover, sustainability has become a major topic in the society. Therefore, window manufacturers have spent their research and development to meet customers’ expectations. In addition to the environmental concerns, there’s an increasing number of regulations. For example, the European Union set common standards for all member states regulations.

Brussels, as the capital of the European Union, is a cluster for international institutions such as the European Commission, the European Parliament or UNICEF. These institutions are aiming to have a front-runner position in terms of modernization and sustainability. The architectural challenges in Brussels are to include modern design within the existing the classical environments. This creates a unique city-center and poses a market potential for window manufactures. There are a lot of construction sites in Brussels giving a better opportunity to enter the market specially these large buildings such as the European Parliament and the European Commission. The biggest European players in this industry sector are Jeld-Wen, Pella and Andersen.

  

In terms of complying with the Brussels region, the current standard practice is that all window must be at least. Ordinary double glazing (Low E double glazing in Brussels Region) with window U-Value of 2.5. Comparing to the European market average, Brussels Region has set a higher standard than other countries.

As a swiss window manufacturer thinking contextual intelligence is crucial when entering a market such as Brussel. Reasons for that, are the high expectations of the architectures and its clients as well as the special purposes of buildings in the city.  Considering the need of public announcement for public construction, the bar is raised to be awarded the contract.

  

Having a growing city with many old buildings that do not meet the minimum requirements in regard to ecological standards, there is great potential for a company that meets both, the capability to produce high quality windows, as well as being able to keep up with the expectations to be innovative and to deliver to clients in time. This has to be kept in mind, considering the high amount of governmental institutions and NGOs being present in Brussels. Hence, a good place to set up a sales office would be in the middle parliamentary area.

As a Swiss provider of high-quality windows, not being part of the European Union, the need to be flexible and adapt to given circumstances in the long-term is pivotal. Moreover, the decision-making process of such clients may take several months, or even years.

Concluding, the market itself is very promising for a manufacturer of large high-quality windows, considering the high purchasing power and demand. Nevertheless, a market entry is challenging since Swiss companies face the political hurdles of not being an enterprise from a member-state of the European Union. To solve this issue, the network model by Johanson and Mattsson should be implemented in the internationalization strategy.

 

Belgian Beer Culture In Brussels

Belgium is to beer, what Italy is to pasta, and what Switzerland is to cheese. With over 800 beer brands, the country has a well-established beer culture of its own. The Belgians are incredibly picky when it comes to beer; a personality trait that stems from being wedged in between some of the most beer-savvy countries in the world: Germany, the Netherlands, and France. The country has fought for ages to differentiate itself from its neighbors, and it can be safe to say that they have successfully done so. They have done so well in fact, that UNESCO even added beer to Belgian’s representative list of intangible cultural heritage, making it official: Beer is the country’s national pride, and this can clearly be seen on the streets of Brussels

When strolling through the street of Brussels, you almost instantly encounter the various beer brands that the country has to offer. On practically every street corner in the city’s center there’s some bar that offers you a rich assortment of Belgian beers. The Belgian’s national product strongly influences the city’s nightlife, which is a booming one to say the least. Brussels has over fifty bars and clubs to literally dance the night away, as the city does not enforce standardized closing hours. Brussels nightlife is a unique experience due to its international flair and endless possibilities. One of the most iconic bars in the city “Delirium Café”, has the biggest beer selection in the world, offering over 2,000 different beers; and this is only one of several beer bars that the city holds. However, the one thing that all these bars have in common is that the prices are low, and the beer is Belgian.

On average, the Belgian population consumes 74 liters of beer per year. Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Belgium brewery and one of the biggest in the world, dominates the Belgium market. Some of the most popular brands of the company in Belgium are Jupiler (larger) and Leffe (dark beer). The company also owns some of the most important international beer brands that are consumed in Belgium and worldwide. Some of them are Corona, Budweiser, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Hoegaarden, among others, that are also selling in the country in different segments.

The Belgian beer industry is vastly different from the Swiss one. While the Belgians focus on cost control to offer the lowest price, Switzerland deals with higher production costs; meaning that their beers are much more expensive in general. The Belgian beer industry produces 18.7 million HL (hectoliters) per year. For which 11.6 million HL are exported. For this reason, it can be stated that those companies working in this industry can achieve the advantage of economies of scale. When comparing the average beer prices per liter, Brussels offers an average price of USD 3.64 per liter while in Zurich a liter of beer costs an average price of USD 5.69, this is a premium of USD 2.05. This premium can be explained due higher costs of labor force, production costs, purchasing power of customers. It would be very difficult for a Swiss beer brewery to enter and effectively compete on this market, as they would not be able to meet the price expectations of the Belgian consumers. Furthermore, as was mentioned before, beer is one of the country’s national prides. As the local consumers prefer their home country-brews, it would not be feasible for a swiss brewery to enter this market.

The company could opt to set up a production facility in Belgium, in order to become more competitive in terms of costs. It should be noted that since Belgium is part of the European Union the restrictions with regard to consolidation of breweries are considerable low. However, the cultural aspects can be more important than having a good production strategy, meaning that Belgians have strong preferences for Belgian beer. “In Brussels, the beer is and will always be Belgian”.

Swiss High End Watches in Brussels

Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is welcoming around 5 million tourists every year. Although the region is not widely known as a watchmaking cluster, there is a yearly meeting of the Belgium Watch Club, in which more than 30 brand representatives are meeting to discuss the industry and future trends.

When people buy a luxury Swiss watch, they are mostly at first oriented by buying a watch with a reputable name and secondly by buying the product specifications and watchmaking complication. Swiss watch brands should certainly aim at placing themselves in the top of their industry and compete with local Belgium and other international brands. Examples of reputable Swiss luxury watches are: Rolex, Jaeger Le Coultre, IWC and Patek Philippe.

All the above-mentioned brands are more or less in the same price class (roughly starting at 2000-8000€ for an uncomplicated piece up to several millions for the most extravagant and limited pieces). Instead of focusing on just building the brand name for social recognition, the Swiss watch brands should focus on the product specification and quality to address the practical needs of its target customers.

While Swiss watch brands operate in a high-end segment, best locations in Brussels would be Waterloo Boulevard and Galerie Royales Saint Hubert.

Galerie Royales Saint Hubert is a glazed shopping center, which is home to lots of luxury boutiques, watchmakers and chocolate shops as well as many high-cuisine restaurants. Therefore, the target customers for Swiss high-end watch brands are already formed at this place. Moreover, this location might be attractive for wealthy tourists.

Galerie Royales Saint Hubert

Waterloo Boulevard is on the other hand more appropriate for local citizens. It is a famous shopping street in Brussels, mainly for haute couture. Moreover, one of the most famous Swiss high-end watch brands “Rolex” is already located at Waterloo Boulevard. As observed in Switzerland, many watch brands are located on the main street of Zurich – Bahnhofstrasse. Having closely located competitors attracts the interest of customers and leads to mutual benefit of all brands. Hence, following this common way of Swiss watch-retailing, Waterloo Boulevard could be an attractive location for many Swiss high-end watch brands.

Waterloo Boulevard

A swiss-high end watch brand will face major competition. Major luxury watch brands are offering their products in flagship stores or noble boutiques. Rolex, for example, has three official retailers, Patek Philippe has one, Jaeger-Lecoultre has three as well as IWC, to name a few. In general, Brussels is offering all kind of high end watches, this, however, does not have to mean that the market is saturated, but that demand is high.

To conclude, the city of Brussels presents a strong potential for Swiss luxury watch brands mainly thanks to 500 million European consumers that are present in this city. Moreover, the city offers strong infrastructure, a good diplomacy cluster as well as multilingual experts in the watchmaking industry. In order to be successful and attract a large number of tourists as well as wealthy locals, the company should focus on language adaptation (primarily French, Dutch and English). We also recommend opening a flagship (brand) store in order to rapidly build a strong brand awareness and presence. Sponsorship combined with a solid marketing strategy will make Belgian and foreign consumers actively experience the brand. Overall, the business environment is highly favorable for Swiss luxury watch brands to enter.

Akshita and Anne-Sophie in front of the Patek Philippe store in Brussels

 

Group 7: A.Sophie Couvez, Florian A. Graf, Michelle Hoffmann, Akshita Jain, Dzhessika Mariia Kardakova & Ana Viljac