Homeware chain The Range to open first Northern Ireland store
A rapidly expanding budget homeware chain is to open its first Northern Ireland store in Ballymena tomorrow.
Value home, leisure and garden retailer The Range will create 80 new jobs as it opens in Braidwater Retail Park in a unit formerly occupied by the DIY giant B&Q.
The Range has grown from 54 stores five years ago to now having 130 nationwide - making it one of the fastest growing retailers in the UK.
The store at Braidwater Retail Park in Ballymena will include a family cafe and outdoor garden centre.
The Range stocks more than 65,000 products across 16 different departments, including furniture, DIY and art supplies.
Serial entrepreneur Chris Dawson, who started out as a market trader, opened the first store in Plymouth almost 30 years ago.
He left school at 15 and started selling scrap metal, and claims he is barely literate.
"We are really excited to begin our Northern Irish expansion in Ballymena," Mr Dawson said.
"It is a great step in helping the business to progress and grow.
"We feel that The Range is a unique shopping experience that has something for everyone, and we are sure that the new store will be a welcome addition to the area."
Dawson made his first billion in 2014, when the rapid expansion of his homeware empire moved him up 80 places in the Sunday Times Rich List. That year he was estimated to be worth £1.28bn - up £695m from 2013.
With its garden centre offering, the company will be competing against the big multiples such as B&Q and Homebase, as well as independents such as Hillmount Garden and Camerons Landscapes and Garden Centre.
In June, rival Dobbies' 34 stores, including one in Lisburn, were sold by Tesco to a group of investors for £217m.
And just weeks ago 32 jobs were saved in Omagh when Homebase's new owners - Aussie firm Bunnings - told staff they would not close the town's branch of the chain.
B&Q also reversed its decision to close its store in Sprucefield, just outside Lisburn.