Cookie Box are set to double its stores by next year
Family firm Cookie Box is opening its latest Belfast outlet today as it plans on doubling store numbers by early next year.
The new store at Castle Place is part of clothing retailer DV8's site, and will create between three and six new jobs.
And owner Brian McRandal is planning a further six stores for Northern Ireland between this year and next. He's also in the process of finalising a deal to franchise the business to the Middle East, which could see a further 18 stores opening up.
"We are in the process of opening up our fifth owned business. The new business will be offering the same cookies and milkshakes."
He said while this year's lack of sun had an impact on trade, Cookie Box weathered the conditions well.
The Belfast-based business began life in 2008, when husband and wife Brian and Claire McRandal moved back from England - where Claire hails from - to set up business in Northern Ireland.
The pair opened a small shop in Belfast's Ann Street, close to Victoria Square.
Now, they are planning to expand across the city, eyeing up shopping centre locations before growing outside Belfast.
"We are looking at working from Belfast outwards. We have a few offers on the table with shopping centres, and are planning to open one or two before Christmas, and then a couple more next year.
"Each store on average would be mainly part-time staff, between three and six." Cookie Box also has two franchised Northern Ireland stores, and has plans to grow that end of the business into the Republic soon.
"We are very weather-dependent, and across our industry ice cream sales have been down. But our business has felt a lot stronger.
"We believe in the brand and the product. Last summer was a very strong time for us. In the six and a half years we have traded, when the sun is out, it's very good, and when it's not, it's down a bit."
The company now employs more than two dozen staff, and remains a family business, with Brian's sister managing one of the stores now operating across Northern Ireland.