Jobs blow as Game Stop closes three of its stores
A US retailer of computer games has blamed 'inflexible' landlords after shutting three of its four Northern Ireland stores with the loss of 15 jobs.
Game Stop confirmed it had closed stores in Bangor's Flagship Centre, Belfast's Arthur Square and Foyleside in Londonderry, leaving it with one shop in Newry's Quays Shopping Centre.
The closures join a growing list of retail failures in the province and the UK as a whole.
Game Stop Northern Europe managing director Niall Lawlor said: "After a long period of negotiations of rent terms with landlords, we were left with no choice but to close the locations because we couldn't get to realistic rental levels."
Mr Lawlor said there were no plans "right now" for further Irish closures among its 50 or so stores in the Republic - but said the shops in Northern Ireland were "not viable".
Both Foyleside Shopping Centre in Londonderry and Flagship Shopping Centre in Bangor said they were given no notice of the closures.
But Mr Lawlor said: "We gave them notice on the day but again, it's been a very frustrating process."
He said he had been seeking to renegotiate rent so that the company could operate "at some level of profitability".
"It's prevalent across the south too that we can't get landlords to agree to a reasonable level of rent."
He said staff were told on Friday that the shops would be shutting the day after or the following day but claimed the company was acting legally in doing so.
The company shut stores in Victoria Square, Belfast, Birmingham and Stockport at the beginning of last year.
Overall, retail in the UK was tougher than in the Republic, Mr Lawlor said.
Game Stop is one of many chains to close in Northern Ireland and the UK. Nostalgic goods shop Past Times closed its Belfast Fountain Street shop yesterday after the chain went under.
And around 16 Bonmarche stores are set to close after the retailer was bought out of administration.
Private equity firm Sun European Partners, which also owns the Alexon and Jacques Vert brands, has bought the women's clothing retailer out of administration in a so-called pre-pack deal for an undisclosed sum.
The sale of Bonmarche will free up administrators to look for a buyer for the Peacocks chain, which has 563 stores and 48 concessions.
It is understood that numerous private equity firms including Sun and clothing firm Edinburgh Woollen Mill are interested in buying the chain, while Tesco is reported to be interested in some of its stores.
Head music retailer in Victoria Square closed its doors earlier this month, blaming a failure to reach a short-term lease with landlord Victoria Square, while HMV last week pulled down the shutters on its store in Bangor.