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Dunnes to expand Abbeycentre store as part of revamp

BY John Mulgrew

Published 22/01/2016

The Abbeycentre
The Abbeycentre
What the new Dunnes Stores development could look like

Dunnes Stores is planning a major revamp and extension of its Abbeycentre outlet after cutting back on its grocery business across Northern Ireland.

It is planning to extend the unit at the shopping centre in Newtownabbey "to provide a new modern retail offering to allow the store to consolidate its position and remain competitive in an ever-changing retail landscape".

The company indicated the project was the first significant modification to the outlet since it was opened in 1979.

Planners said the current building suffered "from arguably a jaded external image".

The revamped Dunnes site will sit beside Next, which is also being redeveloped.

The company has proposed building an extra 12,100 sq ft of floor space, expanding in a number of directions. It also wants to create additional car park spaces.

The Irish chain had been involved in a legal dispute with the centre over Next's plans to expand its outlet.

Dunnes' project comes just a month after the company closed its food hall at the Park Centre in west Belfast, with the loss of around 50 jobs. The grocery business shut its doors a short time before Christmas.

Dunnes still operates around 20 food and drink outlets here, but it has closed several in the past year alone.

In February, the Dublin-based retailer shut its branch at the Connswater Shopping Centre in east Belfast. It also closed three others in Antrim, Ballymoney and in Portadown.

Pre-tax profits at the main Northern Ireland and UK arm of the company decreased by 18% to £11.3m last November after a further slide in revenues.

The revamped Dunnes outlet at the Abbeycentre will amalgamate four existing units.

A planning statement from the retailer said that "although Dunnes Stores is in a prime location within the centre", the business "fully understands that it must now take the opportunity to create a new flagship store that will breathe new life, not only into its own business, but into the centre overall".

No one from Dunnes Stores was available for comment on the proposals.

Abbeycentre currently plays host to a range of big-name retailers, including Argos, Boots and Topshop.

The Newtownabbey centre also received a major boost last month after it welcomed two new stores and three others unveiled expansions of their own.

Jeweller Pandora and outdoor clothing specialist Trespass both acquired new units. Health food chain Holland & Barrett, fashion retailer Vogue and jeweller Argento also up-sized.

Emma Mackenzie, director at NewRiver Retail - which owns Abbey Centre - said the new arrivals at the business were "testament to how well the centre is trading". "We have also started 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," she added.


Dunnes' pre-tax profits last November after an 18% fall

Belfast Telegraph

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