Marks & Spencer is keen to expand further in Northern Ireland, it emerged today.
As the retailer celebrated 40 years of business in the province, Neil Hyslop, its divisional executive in Ireland, revealed the London-based company is aiming to add to its 17 stores here.
"Plans are well under way for further development in the province," he said.
Mr Hyslop did not elaborate, but M&S previously revealed it is aiming to bring its Simply Food format to several towns across Northern Ireland where it currently does not have a presence.
The company, which now employs nearly 2,000 people here, opened its first Ulster store in Belfast's Donegall Place in September 1967.
"I think our 40th anniversary is a fantastic opportunity to say a huge thank you to our customers and staff and to celebrate the marvellous relationships we have with them," the divisional executive said.
He said both customers and staff have had a remarkable influence on the company's business development in Northern Ireland.
Mr Hyslop also said M&S had demonstrated its commitment to Northern Ireland through a continuous and extensive investment and development programme over the last 40 years.
In the past couple of years it has spent over £75m on revamp and development projects, including the opening of a new store at Abbeycentre in September 2006, the launch of a dedicated Home store and table service restaurant at Sprucefield, a remodel of the Foyleside store in Londonderry and the launch of a Simply Food outlet at Boucher Road in Belfast.
And just last week it unveiled a redesign and extension at its Belfast city centre store.
Mr Hyslop also noted that M&S has developed longstanding relationships with a number of Ulster suppliers over the past four decades. And the likes of O'Kane Poultry, Avondale Foods and RHM Bakeries have been working alongside M&S since the opening of the Belfast store in 1967.