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Industry focus: Retail in Belgium

AKD

The cross-disciplinary real estate and retail practice at AKD enjoys a stellar reputation among a sterling roster of domestic and international brands, who turn to the team for its ‘practical’ approach in commercial, regulatory, and dispute-based mandates. Led by experienced real estate partner Steven Ongena, the team handles a litany of retail outlet acquisitions, compliance and GDPR reviews, consumer protection issues, and litigation before the various Belgian courts. Pol Cools represents various domestic and international retailers in contentious proceedings and company law matter, including group restructurings.

Practice head(s):

Steven Ongena

Testimonials

‘Solution-driven team.’

‘I truly appreciate their honest and practical approach.’

Key clients

Spadel

Esports Club

Hilfiger Stores Belgium

Calvin Klein Stores Belgium

Furla

Claire’s Accessories

Dessange International

Jennyfer

Stella Bikes

IMDC

RJB Belgium

Retif

Work highlights

  • Representing a Pan-European retailer in its re-entry in the Belgian market by negotiating a new lease for a flagship store in a leading shopping centre.
  • Assisting a global multi-brand retailer with the relocation of its Belgian HQ, including showrooms, from Brussels to Antwerp.

ALTIUS

Fielding a ‘solid team with great technical expertise‘, ALTIUS‘ full-service retail and consumer goods practice is regularly called upon by various leading retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers for assistance in domestic and cross-border mandates. The team has strong capabilities in the full scope of sector-specific issues, including IP enforcement, merger clearance, local market entry, and site leasing contracts – including emergency Covid-19 response actions. The sizeable practice is jointly led by the ‘hands on‘ competition and distribution expert Carmen Verdonck and Lieven Peeters, a real estate  and construction specialist with a keen focus on retail-focused developments. Alexander Hansebout focuses on multi-jurisdictional disputes before the national courts, the European Court of Justice, as well as ICC and CEPANI-governed arbitrations, representing clients in insolvency proceedings and tort liability matters.

Other key lawyers:

Alexander Hansebout

Testimonials

‘Good knowledge of industry and its players. Solid team with great technical expertise and experience. Reactive and willing to cooperate.’

‘Carmen Verdonck is experienced in dealing with advisory matters and proceedings. Reactive and hands on.’

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

OPTODIS

4PX Express

C&A

Cordes & Graefe

Work highlights

  • Assisted Cordes & Graefe (GC Group) in relation to the acquisition and merger clearance of a majority stake in Facq group, a household name in Belgium for sanitary, heating, air-conditioning, kitchen and bathroom furniture.
  • Assisted Kellydeli with the development of  activities on the Belgian markets.
  • Assisted Foot Locker and Marc O’Polo, as retailer-tenants, with the negotiations for (the renewal of) various commercial lease agreements in high streets and/or shopping centers with various landlords; whereby since March 2020 a focus on the impact of Covid-19 on the commercial lease agreements was an additional key-factor in the negotiations.

DLA Piper

Drawing on the firm’s considerable international reach, DLA Piper advises a litany of blue-chip brands on the full spectrum of retail matters, including trademark protection, influencer contracts, judicial reorganisations, and representation in trade union proceedings and advertising litigation. The cross-disciplinary team also maintains significant HR-style relationships with multiple high-profile fashion houses, luxury goods companies, and supermarket chains. Employment head Eddy Lievens is a regular port of call for clients seeking assistance in corporate integrations, and workplace accidents, while Ilse Van De Mierop and Joris De Vos are noted for their deep knowledge of restructuring and bankruptcy proceedings, appearing regularly before Brussels’ and Leuven’s insolvency courts. Belgian retail sector chair Alexis Fierens specialises in soft IP rights, focusing on copyright, know-how protection and unfair commercial practices.

Practice head(s):

Alexis Fierens; Joris De Vos; Eddy Lievens; Ilse Van de Mierop

Testimonials

‘Knowledgeable and commercial.’

Alexis’ ability to put himself in a commercial decision process and assess what a company needs to do.

Key clients

BD myShopi

Burberry

Casa International NV

Clarks Shoes

Daniel Wellington

Dr Martens Airwair

Easykit

IKKS

Karen Millen

Levi Strauss

Louise Vuitton Services Europe

New Balance

Overstock Garden / Overstock Home

Parfums Christian Dior SAB /Guerlain Benelux

Pierre Degand SA

Q8 (Kuwait Petroleum (Belgium))

Realo (Belgium) NV

Rituals

Spotify

Supergroup (including Superdry brand)

X²O Sanitair

Work highlights

  • Providing commercial and IP advice to all different entities of Legio Sales, such as X²O, Overstock (Garden and Home) and assistance in soft IP litigation proceedings (X²O/Geberit, X²O/Vasco, OVS Home/Leclef).
  • Assisting Ansi NV with its winning bid to takeover fashion chain E5 Mode in the framework of a judicial reorganisation procedure.
  • Assisting Louis Vuitton Services Europe with the setting up of a works council, of a committee for prevention and protection at work and of a union delegation.

Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick

Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick‘s considerable cross-practice team acts for market-leading retailers, distributors, outlet stores, and real estate developers on a broad array of instructions, including patent disputes, competition law issues, and high-profile cases before the Enterprise Court and the European Court of Justice. Olivier Vanden Berghe specialises in commercial contracts litigation, representing major department stores, apparel retailers, and accessories brands in a host of contentious matters. Etienne Kairis focuses on global brand protection and trademark filing strategies, while Yves Delacroix is noted for his experience in high-stakes real estate transactions. Transactional banking head Freya Mareels advises various major retailers on financing matters.

Practice head(s):

Olivier Vanden Berghe; Etienne Kairis; Yves Delacroix

Other key lawyers:

Freya Mareels; Pierre Desenfans

Testimonials

‘The Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick team has a great approach and a strong knowledge of the wider issues in the retail market. They have a strong practice and are problem-solvers. Indeed, this is not only providing standard solutions but looking for alternatives.’

Pierre Desenfans, tax partner, is a top expert in the real estate retail sector.

Key clients

Wereldhave

INNO

LIDL

Provera

Grand Opticiens Belgium

Kia Motors Belgium

Louis Vuitton Services Europe

Total/Servauto

Carpetright

Pandora Jewelry

Marcolini

Decathlon Belgium

Daniel Wellington

Lampiris

Wafadar

Nomad Foods Group

GALERIA Karstadt Kaufhof GmbH

Work highlights

  • Representing major department store operator Inno in its €2m damages claim against Unizo and Mode Unie as a consequence of their obtaining and enforcing a court injunction on black-out periods, forcing Inno to stop certain commercial actions.
  • Assisting Grand Opticiens with the transfer of 35 shops of the Grand Optical brand to a potential buyer in the context of a sale.
  • Assisting GALERIA Karstadt Kaufhof GmbH with the Belgian law aspects of a €460m subordinated loan granted by the German State, through its Wirtschafsstabilisierungsfonds.

Osborne Clarke

Leveraging the firm's robust international footprint, the retail industry group at Osborne Clarke consistently advises numerous international companies and key Belgian market players from the worlds of retail and luxury goods. The team is adept at reorganisations, contract negotiations, lease work and regulatory reviews, with recent contentious highlights including appeal proceedings before the General Court. CEPANI and ICC-recognised arbitrator Marie Canivet is noted for her substantial experience in distribution law and franchising, acting for various local and foreign businesses on the full scope of market access issues. Louis Hoffreumon concentrates on retail, advertising, and consumer law, including product regulation and unfair competition.

Practice head(s):

Marie Canivet

Testimonials

‘Great knowledge of the sector and proactive support given with great flexibility to the needs of our company.’

‘The team have been tremendous in anticipating opportunities to mitigate risks and really go above and beyond to address our requirements. Great strategic legal partners!’

Key clients

Puma

Medi-Market

Brico

Godiva

Heytens

Diageo

Alain Afflelou

Aspria

Superdry

Work highlights

  • Advising Godiva on various matters including advice on the day-to-day management of its network, drafting, reviewing and negotiating its commercial and lease contracts, its restructuring, digital transformation strategy, and on drafting a manufacturing and services agreement.
  • Assisting Superdry in several countries, including Belgium, in the review of several lease agreements as well as renegotiation of bank guarantees given for several lease agreements relating to specific Superdry shops.
  • Advising a kitchen manufacturer on various matters including its strategy, expansion, restructuring, drafting and negotiating master franchise contract as well as supply agreements and tax matters.

Strelia

Led by cross-border franchising specialist Olivier Clevenbergh, Strelia regularly acts for franchising, distribution, and commercial real estate actors from Belgium and beyond. In recent months, the team has handled commercial partnership terminations, master franchise agreements, and disputes regarding various breaches of contract, including distributorships and events-based projects in the high fashion space. Clevenbergh is also known for his transactional expertise, assisting various supermarkets and apparel chains with their expansion efforts. Jean-Pierre Fierens is widely regarded for his capabilities as an arbitrator and litigator in distribution law cases and franchising agreements. Joanna Kolber and Gaetano Jannone are also noted.

Practice head(s):

Olivier Clevenbergh

Other key lawyers:

Jean-Pierre Fierens; Joanna Kolber; Gaetano Jannone

Testimonials

‘This practice is unique, due to its distinctive way of working with the client. High level of engagement and availability. The best advice and collaboration. Very good lawyers.’

‘Joanna Kolber is the best advocate I have worked with.’

‘Great responsiveness and insights in dispute settlements.’

Key clients

Burger Brands Belgium

Cinemas Pathé

Carrefour

Essity

Exki

Immoweb

Lotronic

Lunch Garden

Media Markt

O’Tacos

PCS Innotec

Philipp Plein International

Sally Beauty (Pro-Duo)

Sandler International

Sobeltop

Veritas

Work highlights

  • Assisting leading French retailer group Carrefour in its franchise operations in Belgium, which includes assistance in commercial, distribution, M&A and dispute resolution matters.
  • Assisted Lunch Garden in the restructuring of its franchise network and in the negotiations with franchisees following their post Covid-related demands.
  • Assisting several Belgian Media Markt companies in a dispute with the unions concerning the operations of several Belgian companies of the group and in particular the appointment of the auditors.

Baker McKenzie CVBA/SCRL

Instructed by a litany of major fashion brands, high-end goods companies, and fast food chains, Baker McKenzie CVBA/SCRL's retail practice maintains a broad focus on commercial and contentious work, including competition claims, distribution models, and franchising issues. Kurt Haegeman - who splits his time between Brussels and Tokyo - serves as the global chair of the firm's consumer goods and retail industry group, advising on Europe-wide distribution systems and e-commerce management concerns. Practice co-head Geert Bovy is an expert in consumer protection law with significant experience advising on labelling, advertising and negotiating selective distribution agreements.

Practice head(s):

Geert Bovy; Kurt Haegeman

CMS

Jointly led by Renaud Dupont and Tom Heremans, the practice at CMS routinely works across multiple departments to handle commercial leasing contracts, distribution networks, IP protection cases, and e-commerce issues.  The team is also adept at cross-border restructurings and high-profile court proceedings before the domestic and European courts. Dupont's broad knowledge of distribution agreements makes him a key port of call for various multinational retailers, while Heremans works with major food stuff manufacturers and e-commerce companies on the full spectrum of IP and TMT concerns.

Practice head(s):

Renaud Dupont; Tom Heremans

Testimonials

‘Collaborative and reactive team.’

‘The team has a very good knowledge of the business of their customers. They are very responsive and deliver excellent legal work.’

‘Tom Heremans is our outside brain for legal work.’

Key clients

Amazon

Celio

Colruyt

Delhaize

Delvaux

Deliveroo

Go Sport

Hermès

iU (Beauty and healthcare products) – MediMarket

Kvadrat

Leonidas

Medi-Market

Mestdagh

Sportsdirect

Wolf Oil

Xiaomi

Work highlights

  • Assisted the Maxi Toys group in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland in respect of a cross-border restructuring, whereby the majority of the Maxi Toys shops and the distribution centre were acquired by King Jouet, a subsidiary of Prenatal Retail Group.
  • Representing two US entities of Amazon in trademark infringement proceedings against Christian Louboutin before the Brussels Court and the Court of Justice of the EU.
  • Representing Medi Market in a litigation case, in particular an unfair competition dispute initiated by a competitor who claims that Medi Market exploits a pharmacy without the required permits.

KPMG Law in Belgium

KPMG Law in Belgium routinely advises an expansive roster of foreign retailers and casual dining chains on a host of market entry and company law matters, as well as real estate issues. Led by Kortrijk-based practice head Jim Bauwens, the team advises on acquisitions targeted at market expansion, commercial lease agreements and regulatory reviews. Bauwens is noted for his far-reaching experience in real estate litigation ad corporate real estate transactions, including transfers, divestments and reorganisations. Real estate practice head Gerald Van Walle is a key figure for major new developments. Alexis Ceuterick and Thomas De Clerck are noted for their expertise in labour and distribution law, respectively.

Practice head(s):

Jim Bauwens

Other key lawyers:

Gerald Van Walle; Alexis Ceuterick; Thomas De Clerck

Key clients

AM Retail Belgium SRL (American Vintage)

J. Choo (Belgium) SRL

Retail Concepts SA (AS Adventure, Yaya, Juttu, etc.)

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

Popken Verwaltungs GMBH & co GCV (Ulla Popken)

Group Deichmann (Solebox Belgium SRL, Van Haren Schoenen SRL, Snipes België SRL)

Maxi Zoo Belgium SRL

Decathlon Belgium SA

Overstock Garden (Exterioo) / Overstock Home

X²O Sanitary Group

Sociedad Textil Lonia SA (Carolina Herrera)

Kwantum België SRL

Bimba & Lola Belgium SRL

GGSPORT Anderlecht SRL and CHARLESPORTS SCRL (Intersport)

RMC Optique SRL (Optical Center)

Five Guys Belgium SRL

Tanger Markt SRL

Bose SA

Battlekart Belgium SRL

Vastned Belgium SA

Downtown Retail SA

Quest For Property SA and affiliated group companies (N2 Property SRL, C2 Property SRL and K2 Property SRL)

Van Oosterwyck Real Estate SA

HB Capital Belgium SA

Flamant Design SA (Besix Group)

Delbar Tournai SRL and Carosserie Delbar SRL

Ertzberg SCRL

D&B Management SRL

FITNESSBOUTIQUE Belgium SRL

ÏDKIDS (Okaidi Belgium SA)

AS Adventure France

Lovisa Belgium SA

Juroma Belgium SRL (Optical Center)

Work highlights

  • Advising Vastned Belgium SA on day-to-day issues/matters with regard to its commercial leases (termination of the commercial lease, advice relating to the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences on the commercial leases, etc.).
  • Advised X²O Sanitary Group, as well as OVS Home / OVS GARDEN (Exterioo), on their expansion in Belgium.
  • Advising Ertzberg on real estate matters, such as acquisitions and divestments, and legal proceedings.

MVVP

Retained by various key domestic retailers and multinational heavyweights, MVVP's broad capabilities encompass day-to-day advisory, commercial leases, distribution and franchise agreements, and consumer protection issues. The team is also noted for its experience in contract-based disputes and compliance reviews. Practice head Jan Ravelingien is noted for his niche expertise in e-money, advertising and digital processes in the retail sector.

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

Association of Flemish Dentists

Work highlights

  • Representing BIBS Denmark in defending its pacifiers against a degrading and disparaging digital advertising campaign through influencers and native ads in online magazines.
  • Representing the leading Dentists’ Association against many bleaching and whitening shops, professional practices, ethical rules and the use of hazardous substances.
  • Assisting in contract negotiations for a leading supermarket chain on the assignment of a gift- and pay cards and e-Money product and service to new service providers, review of the regulatory compliance, and risk management issues.