300 jobs set to be lost with B&Q store closures
Around 300 jobs could be lost after DIY giant B&Q revealed it is shutting five stores here - more than half its entire business in Northern Ireland.
Fears have already been raised that it could herald B&Q leaving Northern Ireland completely.
B&Q has already said that its Belfast store on the Boucher Road and its Buncrana Road business in Londonderry would shut by the end this financial year. But now its Sprucefield store - an anchor tenant of the retail park - Ballymena and Craigavon outlets will shut in early 2017.
And while some staff at Boucher Road may be moved to the nearby Holywood Exchange store, B&Q divisional director Diarmuid Walsh told the Belfast Telegraph it was unlikely workers in Londonderry could be redeployed elsewhere.
The retailer is closing some 60 stores across the UK.
But parent company Kingfisher is growing its Screwfix business throughout Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The loss of the store at Sprucefield was "surprising" said DUP MLA Jonathan Craig. He added that the massive blow to the area could be "a prequel to (B&Q) leaving Northern Ireland altogether". However, Mr Walsh said there were "no further plans for further closures".
"It comes as a surprise and an unfortunate massive blow to the whole complex," said Mr Craig. "They had been a core tenant for a number of years, and my thoughts are with those that work there. It is hard to understand why they have made such a decision."
Speaking of the Ballymena closure, DUP MLA Paul Frew said: "Staff were only told on Tuesday morning. It will be devastating. We are still coming to terms with the big losses at JTI Gallagher, and this will further impact on the town centre."
Upper Bann DUP MLA Stephen Moutray said the news was not only "a blow to the local economy in each of the five areas but the potential loss of 300 jobs is significant for Northern Ireland as a whole". B&Q has been part of the retail fabric within my own constituency and across the province for many years."