Abbeycentre heading for a full house as two new stores arrive
Renewed consumer confidence is helping a Co Antrim shopping centre towards full occupancy, it has been claimed.
Abbeycentre in Newtownabbey is nearly 100% full after two new stores signed up - and negotiations are close to completion for the letting of the final unit.
Jeweller Pandora and outdoor clothing specialist Trespass have acquired the sites, creating 12 new jobs in the process.
And health food shop Holland & Barrett, ladies fashion chain Vogue and Argento - also a jeweller - have also moved into bigger premises.
A new-four storey Next outlet will also open in time for Christmas next year.
It is the first major update on occupancy at the centre since English company NewRiver Retail acquired it as part of a £140m deal last year.
Centre manager Mark Stewart said: "We are pleased to welcome the arrival of two new national retailers to Abbeycentre. Both are well-known brands who will add to our already diverse tenant mix.
"Existing tenants Holland & Barrett, Vogue and Argento have taken larger units, leaving only one unit to let.
"We are in the process of completing external refurbishment works, refreshing our brand and improving our car parking facilities to offer consumers a more complete shopping experience.
"Over the past 12 months, we have seen an increase in footfall and hope these new tenants and improvements to the centre will continue to bring our shoppers back over and over again."
Emma Mackenzie, director at NewRiver Retail claimed that the new arrivals and the up-sizing of existing tenants was evidence the centre was trading well.
She added: "We have also started work on site to create a 45,000 sq ft store for Next, which will span over four floors, so there are exciting times ahead for the centre and our customers.
"The Next development is progressing as scheduled and is due to be open for Christmas 2016."
Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) and McMullen Wilson are joint letting agents. LSH associate director Jonathan Martin said he was in "advanced negotiations" for the final spot.
"Improving market conditions and consumer confidence has meant that there are a number of retailers considering Northern Ireland for the first time, which is a positive sign, and we can look towards 2016 with a strong degree of optimism," he added.
New River also acquired Priory Meadow in Hastings and The Avenue in Newton Mearns as part of the same deal last year.
The transaction was part of Project Swallowtail, in which a total of eight shopping centres held by the Abbey and Foyleside groups - controlled by Northern Ireland businessmen Ken Cheevers and John B McGuckian - were put on the market in May last year.
The eight assets also included Foyleside in Londonderry and Forestside in Belfast, and the Marshes in Dundalk. All eight were on the market for a total guide price of more than £710m.
Foyleside and the 317,649 sq ft Forestside were sold to Ellis Short's Kildare Partners - the backers of McGuckian and Cheevers - for a combined total price of £130m.