Opening a retail store in the Netherlands can be a daunting task. There are many things to think about, such as finding the right location, arranging employees, and understanding the Dutch legal system. In this article, we will provide you with a practical guide on starting a retail shop in the Netherlands. We will discuss the challenges and advantages of opening a brick and mortar store in the Netherlands, as well as some tips on how to get started.
Checklist for opening a retail shop in the Netherlands
- Set up your business – choose the right legal entity
- Check if you need any specific licenses
- Secure funding for your shop
- Find your product’s suppliers
- Find the right retail property and sign (and check!) the lease agreement
- Take out insurance
- Arrange telephone/internet connection and a cash register system
- Hire employees and arrange employment contracts
- Set up your marketing channels
Legal form for retail shop
There are three viable options when setting up a retail business in the Netherlands:
- BV, a limited liability company
- Eenmanszaak, a sole proprietorship
- VOF, a general partnership
Foreign entrepreneurs setting up in the Netherlands with a business of a certain scope will usually end up at the BV, the private limited company. This is a legal entity that protects the owner against the risks of debt of the company. Even for small and medium-sized retail businesses, the BV is usually the most tax-friendly option.
The sole proprietorship has the advantages that it is very easy to set up, has very limited maintenance costs and has a few tax breaks. The general partnership is basically the same as the sole proprietorship, but with several partners instead of one. You can read an extensive overview of the differences, advantages and disadvantages of all legal forms in our guide.
Finding the right location for your retail shop
If you are thinking about opening a retail store in the Netherlands, the first thing you need to do is find the right location. The Netherlands is a small country, but there are many different types of retail stores, so it is important to find a location that suits your business. There are many factors to consider when choosing a location, such as foot traffic, parking, and public transportation. The best overview of available retail property for purchase and rent can be found on the website Fundainbusiness.
Tip: check out the so-called ‘bestemmingsplan’ in order to see if the property you want to rent or purchase has the right ‘destination’. You can access these plans for basically any building in the Netherlands on the website Ruimtelijkeplannen.nl.
Arranging a rental agreement for the shop
In practice it is usually the landlord that provides the rental agreement. This does not mean that you cannot influence the terms of that agreement. Alternatively, you can provide the rental agreement and take the initiative with the terms. On this page you can find a commercial lease agreement you can customize.
Branches Dutch Retail Sector
The Dutch retail sector is diverse and comprehensive, consisting of numerous branches each catering to different consumer needs. Firstly, there is the food and beverage sector which includes supermarkets, convenience stores, and specialty food stores, with industry leaders such as Albert Heijn and Jumbo dominating the market.
Then we have the clothing and footwear branch, featuring international chains like H&M and Zara, as well as local Dutch brands. The home furnishings and household goods sector is another crucial branch, populated by companies like IKEA and Blokker. Furthermore, the electronics and appliances sector has seen significant growth, especially in online retail, with companies like Coolblue and Mediamarkt leading the way. Lastly, the health and personal care sector is another prominent branch, housing a range of pharmacies, beauty stores, and wellness retailers. These various branches collectively constitute the multifaceted landscape of the Dutch retail sector.
The Dutch labor system quite similar to most other European and western countries. Employees enjoy a high degree of protection against their employers, so it is important to understand how it works before hiring employees.
Employment agreement for shop employees
The employment relationship between the employee and your shop is formalized in an employment agreement (in Dutch: arbeidsovereenkomst). This agreement sets out the rights and obligations of both parties. It is important to have a written employment agreement, even if you are hiring someone for a short period of time. If you are hiring a contractor / freelancer on a temporary project, you can use a contractor agreement instead of an employment contract.
CAO Detailhandel – Collective Labour Agreement for shop workers
The Collective Labor Agreement (CAO) for retail businesses sets the minimum wage and working conditions for employees in the retail sector. You can find more information on the CAO website.
Business licenses for retail stores
Once you have found a location and arranged employees, the next step is to obtain a business license for your retail store. In order to do this, you must first register your business with the Chamber of Commerce. You will need to provide them with some basic information about your business, such as its name and address. Once you have registered your business, you will need to apply for a business license from the municipality where your store is located.
Terms and conditions for retail shops
In the Netherlands, retail businesses are subject to the Dutch Civil Code. This means that retail businesses must comply with certain regulations, such as the return policy. The return policy is a set of rules that retail businesses must follow when accepting returns from customers. For example, retail businesses must accept returns within 14 days of purchase and in most cases give a full refund if the customer returns the item.
One of the most important things to think about when opening a retail store in the Netherlands is your return policy. This policy is normally included in your terms and conditions. Furthermore, it is common practice to mention the amount of days a customer has to return a product In general, retail stores in the Netherlands have a 14-day return policy.
Insurance for brick and mortar shops in the Netherlands
When opening a retail store in the Netherlands, it is important to have insurance. There are several types of insurance that you may need, such as property insurance, liability insurance, and product liability insurance. In some cases, additional insurance can be useful.
Property insurance protects your business against damage, fire, theft of property. This includes the building where your retail store is located, as well as the inventory and equipment.
Liability insurance protects your business against any legal claims that may be made against you. This includes claims for personal injury or property damage.
Product liability insurance protects your business against any legal claims that may be made against you for damages caused by your products.
Brick-and-mortar versus online shopping
In the age of online shopping, the retail ‘brick-and-mortar’ shop stills plays an important role. For many types of products, the physical shop is still the place to go. On the other hand, the physical store has also become a showroom for products that are bought online. In such cases, the physical shop or showroom is regularly the same building as the storage and shipping/logistics part of the shop. The physical space thus becomes an extension of the online shop, and vice versa.
Here you can read more on setting up an e-commerce business (webshop) in the Netherlands.
Hybrid shopping concepts
In the Netherlands, there are several ‘hybrid’ retail concepts that combine a retail store with a cafe or restaurant. For example, the store might sell products such as clothing and accessories, while the cafe or restaurant serves food and drinks. These hybrid retail concepts can be a great opportunity for retail businesses. They allow customers to shop and eat or drink at the same location. This can be convenient for customers and can help to increase sales.
There are several advantages of hybrid retail concepts:
1. Convenience for customers: A hybrid retail concept is a great convenience for customers. They can shop and eat or drink at the same location.
2. Increased sales: A hybrid retail concept can help to increase sales. This is because customers are more likely to spend time and money at a location where they can shop and eat or drink.
Pay attention! Different rules may apply based on the municipality you are based in. You may or may not be allowed to serve food and/or drinks at your shop. In many cases you will need to apply for a permit.
Let’s get started with your shop!
When starting a retail business in the Netherlands, there are many practical things to think about. For example your retail strategy, shop location, hiring employees and arranging insurances, contracts with suppliers.
We can help you with many tasks that arise when starting up your shop in the Netherlands. From setting up your retail store to finding the right partners and suppliers. We offer a free quote and/or call, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!