Industry focus: Retail in Belgium

AKD

AKD is most active in retail property work from both a transactional and litigation perspective, but also handles corporate and M&A and supply-related matters for its clients. Department head Steven Ongena, who is best known for his real estate practice, and counsel Pol Cools are also active in drawing up franchise agreements to align with EU competition law, as well as advising on consumer protection standards and distribution claims. Recent work includes assisting landlords and tenants with the payment of rent obligations during the Covid-19 crisis.

Practice head(s):

Steven Ongena

Other key lawyers:

Pol Cools

Testimonials

‘During the first weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown, AKD’s retail team was there for us, even when the lawyers were out-of-office due to governmental restrictions. They provided legal advice, but also went beyond that and proposed practical – rather than simply legal – solutions for the issues at hand.’

Key clients

Hilfiger Stores Belgium (PVH group)

Calvin Klein Stores Belgium (PVH group)

Furla

Claire’s Accessories

Dessange International

Jennyfer

Stella Bikes

IMDC (brand “Grain de Malice”)

Valentino Chocolatier

RJB Belgium

Retif

YellowKorner

Work highlights

  • Acting for a Belgian subsidiary of a foreign B2B distributor in a long-lasting complex dealership termination dispute, including obtaining a cease-and-desist order through a CEPANI arbitration.
  • Advising a pan-European real estate investment management company on its legal position regarding claiming rent from retail tenants for the period covered by the Covid-19 shop lockdown.
  • Assisting a South African skincare products manufacturer with the major restructuring of its distribution relationship with its local BeLux dealer.

ALTIUS

The multi-disciplinary team at ALTIUS offers 'a great balance between legal expertise and real experience', and counts multinational and smaller retailers among its clients, as well as consumer goods manufacturers and suppliers. Competition law expert Carmen Verdonck 'provides solution-oriented advice' on the setting up and restructuring of distribution networks, while real estate specialist Lieven Peeters is 'always reactive and available' when handling commercial lease and construction agreements involving large shopping centres and logistics hubs. Recently, both Verdonck and Peeters – who co-head the practice – have proved integral to KFC's launch and market development in Belgium.

Practice head(s):

Carmen Verdonck; Lieven Peeters

Testimonials

‘A great balance between legal expertise and real experience.’

‘They have a broad and deep knowledge of what is required in order for companies to enter the Belgian market and they present information in a clear and concise manner.’

‘Lieven Peeters was very thoughtful, easy to work with, timely and pragmatic in the advice he provided.’

‘I am confident in working with Lieven Peeters. He is always reactive and available.’

‘The team has a very practical mindset and is therefore a great partner for our business. Very detailed debriefing and analysis.’

‘Trustworthy business partners sharing great advice in a very pragmatic way.’

‘Solid understanding of the market and practice. Good reactivity.’

‘Carmen Verdonck is reactive and provides solution-oriented advice.’

Key clients

KFC

Kellydeli

G-Star

FHP Vileda

Bolton

Beiersdorf

Foot Lockers

Freywille

Primark

Marc O’Polo

Chocolaterie Guylian

Benelux Food Group

Zalando

Games Workshop

Work highlights

  • Assisting the FIEGE Group with the merger clearance procedure before the Belgian Competition Authority following a joint venture to carry out transport services set up with Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof and using the Galeria Inno luxury department store chain.
  • Assisting with the development of KellyDeli’s activities on the Belgian market, including advising on commercial law and labour issues related to the operation of supermarket sushi kiosks and the conclusion of co-operation agreements with major supermarket chains where these kiosks are operated.
  • Assisting Foot Locker and Marc O’Polo with negotiations for payments and the renewal of various commercial lease agreements, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic.

DLA Piper

At DLA Piper, the multi-disciplinary practice group leverages the firm's wide international network to assist various retailers and investors with employment and HR mandates, real estate finance and restructurings. Belgian IP head Alexis Fierens and corporate integrations expert Eddy Lievens co-head the team, which recently advised BD myShopi on setting up a new BD Smart Logistics pick-up and delivery service, and also assist with regulatory and compliance matters concerning copyright, technology and packaging for global brands and distributors. Antwerp-based M&A specialist Koen De Maeyer and litigator Joris De Vos also act as department leads.

Practice head(s):

Alexis Fierens; Eddy Lievens; Koen De Maeyer; Joris De Vos

Key clients

BD myShopi

Casa International

Burberry

Clarks Shoes

Daniel Wellington

Dr Martens Airwair

Easykit

IKKS

Karen Millen

Levi Strauss

New Balance

Overstock Garden/Overstock Home

Parfums Christian Dior

Q8 (Kuwait Petroleum)

Realo

Rituals

Spotify

Supergroup (including Superdry brand)

X²O Sanitair

Work highlights

  • Advising Casa International on its reorganisation through a collective agreement with its creditors.
  • Representing Parfums Christian Dior in the accelerated procedure that was launched by a trade union during the social elections.
  • Representing SodaStream in litigation before the Brussels Commercial Court initiated by several bottling companies, including Spadel, Danone, Nestle Waters Marketing & Distribution and Coca-Cola European Partners, challenging environment-focused advertising campaigns.

Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick

Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick's cross-practice team counts European distributors, outlet stores and retail property developers among its clients, with a comprehensive contentious and non-contentious offering. Commercial contracts and litigation head Olivier Vanden Berghe leads the department alongside IP specialist Etienne Kairis and head of real estate Yves Delacroix, while insolvency partner Roel Fransis is also integral to handling refinancing and restructuring work. Other matters range from brand protection and trade mark litigation to leasing and distribution terminations, defect liability claims and instances of regulatory non-compliance.

Practice head(s):

Olivier Vanden Berghe; Etienne Kairis; Yves Delacroix

Other key lawyers:

Roel Fransis

Testimonials

‘We trust the team and they deliver high-quality work. They are fast, responsive and gives straightforward advice.

‘Olivier Vanden Berghe is a skilled and experienced lawyer; he is very commercially oriented and finds the best solution for the client. Yves Delacroix is the best real estate lawyer for the retail sector I have dealt with. He is highly knowledgeable of the subject matter and a superb litigator.

Key clients

Wereldhave

LIDL

Provera

Kia Motors Belgium

Louis Vuitton Services Europe

Total/Servauto

Carpetright

Pandora Jewelry

Marcolini

Decathlon Belgium

Daniel Wellington

Lampiris

Wafadar

Finance Group

Work highlights

  • Assisting Kia Motors Belgium in proceedings brought before the Entreprise Court of Liège against Autocity-Carcare (AC), a former authorised dealer.
  • Assisting Decathlon in seeking relief against Ludo for the losses suffered as a consequence of several massive recalls because of safety defects detected during e-bike testing.
  • Acting for Swedish supplier Daniel Wellington in cross-border litigation against its former distributor in Belgium following the termination with immediate effect of their contractual relationship.

Osborne Clarke

Osborne Clarke is recognised for its 'knowledge of franchising with a global and creative approach', thanks to its 'great international network', which facilitates the handling of regulatory, commercial, corporate and IP mandates. Led by Marie Canivet, who 'knows how to be firm while remaining open to negotiation' when acting for retail business and distribution clients, the practice also has a strong reputation for handling disputes, having recently represented Starbucks and Medi-Market before the Belgian courts. Canivet is supported by commercial law and litigation specialist Stefan Deswert.

Practice head(s):

Marie Canivet

Other key lawyers:

Stefan Deswert

Testimonials

‘Great knowledge of franchising with a global and creative approach.’

‘Marie Canivet can take risks and put herself really on the client’s side.’

‘Amazing reactivity. Great international network.’

‘All Osborne Clarke lawyers who have been in contact with us have met our expectations so far, with a great expertise in franchise and retail. We are really happy to work with them and, in particular, Marie Canivet.’

‘Marie Canivet is careful to take into account the overall context of a case. She knows how to be firm while remaining open to negotiation which is important to preserve the business.’

Key clients

Puma

Medi-Market

Brico

Godiva

Heytens

Diageo

Alain Afflelou

Aspria

Superdry

Work highlights

  • Advising Heytens on its day-to-day commercial and franchising needs, and also assisting in disputes with franchisees.
  • Represented Starbucks in its appeal before the EU General Court against a 2015 ruling on alleged state aid from the Netherlands.
  • Advising Brico, one of Belgium’s largest DIY store chains, on day-to-day matters.

Strelia

Clients appreciate Strelia's 'business-oriented' practice and its ability to 'anticipate clients' needs', with notable experience advising on the commercial relationships between retailers and their franchisees. Led by corporate and distribution specialist Olivier Clevenbergh, the team advises on the set-up and development of outlets and networks across Belgium, with a particular focus on suppliers’ contracts, joint purchasing structures and lease agreements. Renowned litigator Jean-Pierre Fierens oversees contentious matters, having recently assisted on various cases concerning the termination of tenders and franchise partnerships. Fierens works closely with 'smart, reactive and fast' disputes counsel Joanna Kraus-Kolber.

Practice head(s):

Olivier Clevenbergh

Other key lawyers:

Jean-Pierre Fierens; Joanna Kraus-Kolber

Testimonials

‘The lawyers of Strelia are practical and efficient in the sense that they understand our business. We don’t need to tell them the same thing twice. They are business-oriented and anticipate our needs. They are dedicated to respecting deadlines. A real business partner.

‘Joanna Kraus-Kolber is a solution-oriented lawyer who is not afraid to think outside the box. Smart, reactive and fast, Joanna not only masters the relevant legislation but she also understands the specific needs and challenges in the retail sector.’

Key clients

Carrefour

Burger Brands Belgium (operator of Burger King and Quick)

Veritas

Lunch Garden

Sandler International

PCS Innotec

Exxki

Essity

Philipp Plein International

Sobeltop

Sally Beauty (Pro-Duo)

Work highlights

  • Advising Essity with respect to the termination of a commercial partnership.
  • Advising Sandler International with respect to the termination of a master franchise agreement and the setting up of an appropriate contractual scheme with new franchisees.
  • Assisting Sally Beauty (Pro-Duo) with a number of contractual issues relating to the modification of the current franchise and distribution structure.

Baker McKenzie CVBA/SCRL

Baker McKenzie CVBA/SCRL draws on cross-practice expertise to offer retail clients services in competition and commercial law, along with dispute resolution. International trade partner Geert Bovy leads the team with Kurt Haegeman, who splits his time between Brussels and Tokyo as part of the firm's global consumer goods and retail industry group, which represents various domestic and international brands. Recent work includes assisting with the implementation and management of distribution models alongside franchise and commercial lease agreements, and advising stores on re-opening following the initial Covid-19 lockdown.

Practice head(s):

Geert Bovy; Kurt Haegeman

CMS

The 'assertive' and 'very pragmatic' team at CMS is 'able to provide expert advice across the entire spectrum of legal issues' thanks to a full-service and multi-disciplinary approach to matters in the retail sector. Practice co-heads Renaud Dupont, who specialises in distribution-related mandates, and IP expert Tom Heremans advise on commercial lease contracts, trade mark and copyright disputes, cross-border restructurings and terminations of franchise agreements. Recent new clients include Hermès, Medi-Market and Maxi Toys.

Practice head(s):

Renaud Dupont; Tom Heremans

Testimonials

The team is really assertive and has good expertise in the legal aspects of our industry. The team is also very pragmatic. We always receive advice that is adapted to our needs, questions and level of detail that we need for each situation. We really appreciate this way of working. The team is really business-oriented.

Retail is a wide-ranging industry and CMS is able to provide expert advice across the entire spectrum of legal issues.

Key clients

Amazon

Lagardère Travel Retail

Boulanger Group

Colruyt

Delhaize

Delvaux

Deliveroo

Hermès

Leen Bakker

Leonidas

Medi-Market

Mestdagh

Sports Direct

Go Sport

Work highlights

  • Representing Amazon in trade mark infringement proceedings against Christian Louboutin before the Brussels court.
  • Assisting the Maxi Toys group in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland in relation to a cross-border restructuring.
  • Assisting French group Boulanger on its acquisition of the Krëfel group in both Belgium and Luxembourg, handling all legal aspects of the M&A transaction.

KPMG Law in Belgium

K Law advises retailers, landlords and investors on complex, high-end consumer and business expansion-related matters, as well as handling their day-to-day corporate operations. With Kortrijk-based Jim Bauwens at its helm, the practice assists with commercial lease agreements and offers advice on supply chain execution along with personnel and labour issues, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Real estate partner Gerald Van Walle, based in Brussels, and employment partner Alexis Ceuterick, based in Antwerp, are the other key names.

Practice head(s):

Jim Bauwens

Other key lawyers:

Gerald Van Walle; Alexis Ceuterick

Key clients

AM Retail Belgium (American Vintage)

J. Choo

Retail Concepts

Fast Retailing Group (Uniqlo, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Princesse Tam Tam)

Popken Verwaltungs GMBH & co GCV (Ulla Popken)

Group Deichmann

Maxi Zoo Belgium

Decathlon Belgium

Overstock Garden/Overstock Home

X²O Sanitary Group

Sociedad Textil Lonia

Kwantum België

Bimba & Lola Belgium

GGSPORT Anderlecht and CHARLESPORTS (Intersport)

FPPM BE SRL (Paul Marius)

RMC Optique

Five Guys Belgium

Tanger Markt

Bose

Battlekart

Vastned Retail

Downtown Retail

Quest For Property and affiliated group companies

Van Oosterwyck

HB Capital Belgium

Flamant Design

Delbar Tournai and Carosserie Delbar

Ertzberg

D&B Management

FITNESSBOUTIQUE Belgium

ÏDKIDS (Okaidi Belgium)

Adventure France

Work highlights

  • Representing Vastned Retail Belgium in various judicial procedures before the Justice of the Peace relating to lease renewals.
  • Advising Group Deichmann on its expansion in Belgium.
  • Assisting Delbar Tournai, Carrosserie Delbar and D&B Management with the business purchases of Premium Tournai SPRL in Tournai and Froyennes (all authorised dealerships of Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and Seat).

MVVP

MVVP's retail sector expertise lies in restructuring, advertising and day-to-day corporate matters, with a particular focus on establishing and expanding chain networks, preparing distribution agreements and overseeing contract termination matters. The practice is headed by commercial expert and litigator Jan Ravelingien, who is heavily involved in the launches of e-money and innovative digital products. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, Ravelingien has also assisted various outlets with access control measures, contactless payments and automatic money counting after the government introduced new in-store regulatory guidelines.

Practice head(s):

Jan Ravelingien

Key clients

IC Group of Companies

Pearl

Esprit

CBR Fashion Group

Cochlear

Snap

Antargaz

Charles Vögele

Goodyear Dunlop Tires

Infiniti/Nissan

Buffalo Boots

Takko Fashion

Waterstones

BWin

Energy (Start To Run)

Cewe Color

Louis Poulsen A/S

Work highlights

  • Representing Louis Poulsen in a claim against a former web shop retailer in Belgium on issues of fading out the contractual relationship, equal terms and conditions, contractual restraints and restructuring the distribution network.
  • Representing the leading Dentists’ Association in claims against many bleaching and whitening shops relating to professional practices, ethical rules and the use of hazardous substances.
  • Assisting one of the largest supermarket chains in Belgium during contract negotiations for the implementation of gift or pay-cards and e-money.

Stibbe

Full-service firm Stibbe provides all-round advice to its retail and consumer goods clients on distribution issues, IP law, consumer protection, unfair trade practices, product regulations and recalls, along with advertising compliance and contract drafting. Practice head Peter Wytinck is the main contact for both contentious and regulatory work.

Practice head(s):

Peter Wytinck