A £2m expansion by a well-known family-run supermarket in Armagh has been hailed as a huge boost to the city’s centre. Emersons, which has been in business for 125 years, will expand into a vacant unit on Market Street, formerly occupied by family department store Walkers.
The new store will incorporate a Post Office, a ground floor restaurant and a refurbishment of the supermarket. Emersons’ expansion comes after Tesco won planning permission to build a store on the edge of Armagh.
Emersons, which employs 110 people, was first opened by Henry Alexander Emerson in 1889 and is now being run by his great-grandson Gavin.
Gavin Emerson said that the expansion is a way of investing in the city centre's future.
“We are always looking at ways to reinvest so we can build on our achievements to date, expand our services for our customers and build a sustainable future which not only creates jobs but also puts life back into our high street,” Mr Emerson said. “The recession was a sad time when many businesses were forced to close their doors.
“Everyone felt the struggle but what was clear is the importance of local people supporting local businesses. We are celebrating 125 years this year so showing our customers in Armagh that we are reinvesting in our business, to enhance their customer experience, is very important to us.
“We are delighted the Post Office will be part of our story and look forward to the people of Armagh enjoying the accessibility of services the Post Office provides.”
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said that the development was a sign of improved economic times in Northern Ireland.
“This is good news for the economy and good news for Armagh.” he said. “Despite the fact that the large multiple supermarkets want a stake in the city, shoppers realise that you can get something different in terms of customer service and product in these independent, family-run stores.
“This is a sign of improved economic times, when a local company chooses to expand and invest in the face of big competition from much larger companies.”
Earlier this year, planners granted final approval for a 44,000sq ft Tesco development at Alexander Road.
The application was submitted by Portadown-based developers Turkington Holdings Ltd for the former Fane Valley site.
A report last year by property experts GL Hearn named Armagh as the joint third in a league of towns and cities with the highest vacancy rates, with 19% of its shops empty.