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Dunnes to close Northern Ireland store this weekend

By Rachel Martin

Irish chain store Dunnes will close one of its branches for good on Saturday as the chain reduces its footprint in Northern Ireland, the Business Telegraph can reveal.

It's thought dozens of jobs will be lost as a result of the closure of the Flagship Centre store in Bangor.

Dunnes has closed a number of its other stores around Northern Ireland.

The family-run retailer shut its store in Connswater Shopping Centre in east Belfast in March 2015 and later the same year axed 50 jobs with the closure of its food hall in Park Centre, west Belfast.

Stores in Ballymoney, Antrim and Portadown also closed.

However, Dunnes has also recently revamped its Forestside store in south Belfast and is also extending its store at the Abbeycentre in Newtownabbey.

The closure at the Flagship Centre is another setback for the retail destination, which has struggled to attract new retailers for several years. The store had been an anchor tenant at Flagship.

Last year, the Belfast Telegraph revealed the struggling Co Down shopping centre had been sold twice in two months - including a deal involving former owner and KFC tycoon Michael Herbert.

When Manchester firm North Hold Group took over the centre around a year ago, it had only eight tenants - including then-anchor retailer Dunnes - out of a possible 30 units.

The deal was made just months after Stewart Millers, another major retailer occupying the centre, closed its store.

At the time, it was understood North Hold Group - a commercial property firm in Manchester specialising in retail and leisure schemes - had secured new tenants including an opticians, a gym and a jewellers.

Game Stop, Woodside's Department Store, Focus men's clothing shop, D2, Ethel Austin, Peacock's and Bon Marche were among those to leave.

And since then, several units in the centre have remained vacant.

Flagship Centre Ltd, the company owned by KFC tycoon Mr Herbert, bought the centre back from US vulture-fund Cerberus at the end of May last year.

The sums paid by Flagship Centre Ltd or North Hold Group have not been revealed, but the complex had an asking price of £1.5m when on sale through Osborne King.

Neither Dunnes nor The Flagship Centre were available for comment.

In its latest accounts, Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd - Dunnes' trading company for its UK stores - reported turnover of £127.57m, down from £136.92m.

But pre-tax profits in the year ending January 20, 2016, were up from £11.2m to £13.2m.

A strategic report defines its principal activity as the "retailing of textiles, grocery and homeward goods," but described the retail industry as "highly competitive" with risks and uncertainties from the "current economic climate".

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