Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Housing upturn sparks 'new Fultons' as Furniture Mall opens in Belfast

Lee Horsburgh, the general manager of Belfast Furniture Mall, and Simon Piper, MD, of Belfast Furniture Mall, at the former Fultons store at Balmoral Plaza yesterday

The store which housed luxury furniture retailer Fultons is being reopened under a new name by an English consortium in their first Northern Ireland venture, it was announced today.

The building on south Belfast's Boucher Plaza – home to Fultons until the family business collapsed last year – will be rebranded Belfast Furniture Mall in a new lease with the building owners.

Simon Piper, managing director of Belfast Furniture Mall who formerly worked in traditional furniture company Finest Furniture and the more affordable Furniture Village, said an upturn in the Northern Ireland housing market had encouraged the consortium to make its move.

He said: "My colleagues and I believe Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular, has great potential for growth."

Balmoral Plaza was built by property company Corbo, and is now home to upmarket retailers like kitchen goods shop Lakeland, and Marks & Spencer – as well as the discount department store Home Bargains.

Mr Piper said: "A location like this just outside the city centre is ideal – it's one of the busiest roads in the city with a lot of free parking."

He said the business would continue to cater, like Fultons, for the high-end part of the home furnishing market. "The main differentiation is that we will have tighter control on overheads and slightly lower margins."

But some lines would be more affordable – and although some members of the consortium have links to the sofa giant DFS, "we see ourselves as a cut above DFS".

Family-run Fultons was a home-grown success story until the economic downturn, and the business went into administration in July 2012.

The unit on Boucher Plaza was bought back by Corbo and has now been let to the consortium.

A spokeswoman said the consortium had invested "several million pounds" in the 60,000 sq ft premises ahead of a grand opening on Boxing Day.

The consortium has plans to open three more furniture showrooms on the island of Ireland, and has also set its sights on mainland Europe.

The Fultons business started out in Lurgan around 50 years ago and the flagship Boucher Plaza showroom was opened in 2006.

Fultons on Boucher Plaza was also well-known for its restaurant and resident pianist.

A member of the Fulton family continued to run the restaurant until July, when it was closed due to non-payment of rent.

While Belfast Furniture Mall said a restaurant would be launched next year, it is not known if the pianist will return.

The brands the store will feature include G Plan, Duresta, Old Charm, Sheridan, Tipperary Crystal, Essence Interiors, Wade Upholstery, Celebrity, and Relyon Beds.

A Sony Centre will also open next year.

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