How do we deal with flooding?

Belgium experienced torrential rainfall in mid-July. About ten of our stores also had to shut temporarily due to flooding. Fortunately, prevention measures limited the damage. Thanks to the hard work of our co-workers, most stores were able to reopen after just a few days.

“Prevention is better than cure”

Christophe De Waele, Buildings division manager: “Prevention is better than cure, always. That is why we incorporate prevention measures in the design of our buildings. For example, our stores are at least 20 centimetres higher than street level. We also install the medium-voltage cabin on a raised platform at a height of at least 20 centimetres compared to the car park. Safeguards are also incorporated in the stores. Non-return valves keep the water we discharge out. Think, for example, about our connection to the sewage system.”

And our technical installations are well protected against flooding. Christophe: “We work with a technical platform at height. By putting our technical installations on this platform, we have more store space and our technicians are able to work on the installation without bothering customers. A third advantage is that they are high and dry, even in case of heavy flooding.”

“Having our own technical division is a huge advantage”

These precautions meant the damage in most stores remained limited. However, even the buildings that were less affected needed a lot of work before they were able to reopen. The Colruyt store in Chênée was the last of our own stores to reopen on 23 August. At one point, the water level had risen 1.40 metres. We had to replace everything: shelves, plugs, deep-freezers, refrigerators, etc.

Christophe: “Fortunately, we have a crisis team for these situations. We appointed a coordinator for each store to manage everything. Having a large internal technical division is a not-to-be-underestimated advantage. We can quickly deploy our own people in a targeted way to check and repair installations. This has helped us in recent summers, for example, during heat waves, when the demand for refrigeration technicians far exceeded the supply.”

Social role

All in all, the damage to our stores remained limited, but many people were not so fortunate. As Belgium's largest retailer, we feel it is our duty to help where we can. We therefore immediately looked at how we could support the food banks even more, both short term and long term.

Individual shops also did what they could to help local residents. The Colruyt in Heusy, for example, ordered a pallet of empty apple crates to distribute to their customers. This allowed them to collect things from their homes. We continue to follow up and support affected colleagues.