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Big discounts expected as Belgium's winter sales begin
Winter sales in Belgium kick off on Wednesday, with many stores expected to offer heavy discounts from day one as they seek to clear high levels of stock.
Retail federation Comeos, which represents big brands including Primark and Zara, said many stores would be offering 50% discounts from the very beginning of the sales, which run from 3-31 January.
The winter and summer sales are crucial periods for traders - and the only times of the year when they can legally sell products at a loss.
Stores hope that the first few days of the sales will be particularly successful, as many workers and students are still on their Christmas holiday.
A poll of smaller stores conducted by the self-employed union SNI found more than half of traders were sitting on higher levels of stock than this time last year.
However, the SNI is worried that the sales are losing their meaning, with a growing number of promotions at other times of the year, including the adoption of Black Friday from the US.
SNI president Christine Mattheeuws said retailers felt forced to take part in a "race for reductions" in order to not lose customers in the run-up to Christmas.
About four in 10 of the union's members have seen turnover decline in recent months, and a similar number say their takings have stagnated.