Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland retail market 'set for good year' despite closure of another shop

By Margaret Canning

The Northern Ireland retail market is set for a good year, a report has said - despite news of a fresh shop closure in Belfast city centre.

High-end fashion label Pretty Green, which is owned by Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, closed its doors in Belfast's Victoria Square a few weeks ago. And Currys electrical store in Castle Place is also to close next month.

But the retail growth strategies report by lawyers TLT, which has an office in Belfast, identifies Northern Ireland as one of the UK's top three locations for retail potential.

Its survey also found that retailers were finding it easier to get bank loans, which could be used to fund expansion plans.

Last year saw large numbers of new entrants to the retail sector in Belfast, including Simply Be/Jacamo, Dr Martens and Jojo Maman Bebe.

Kathryn Forde, real estate partner at TLT Belfast, said: "The impressive growth rate anticipated by some retailers, and a determination to invest, shows that there is a continued confidence that the recovery is on track.

"Northern Ireland has a large proportion of online shoppers in the UK, so with the developments in retailer technology and potential for the use of technology, the number of prospective customers has grown dramatically."

She said around 20% of retailers surveyed had described Northern Ireland as 'under potential'.

"This, when coupled with a continued rise in consumer confidence, displays the opportunities for development by global retailers entering the market.

"Readily available retail units will be important in attracting these retailers, and with better access to funding highlighted in the report, we believe that an increasing number of UK retailers will avail of opportunities in the new year."

Lambert Smith Hampton, which is responsible for lettings in Victoria Square, did not wish to comment on the closure of Pretty Green in Belfast, which opened in June 2013.

But a spokeswoman for the firm said: "As any retailer, we are consistently reviewing the performance or our store portfolio.

"With regards to our store in Belfast, the lease unfortunately came to an end and the store has now ceased to trade. We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience this may cause."

She said a Pretty Green concession would open in House of Fraser in Victoria Square in the spring.

"In the meantime, our customers are able to purchase our products from our transactional website ww.prettygreen.com."

Alana Coyle, retail director at CBRE, said she believed 2015 would be a good year for new entrants to retail.

"The outlook is fairly positive and news like the closure of Currys isn't the whole picture.

"There are many retailers who are upsizing, relocating and doing refurbishments.

"January and February are often slow but there are city centre lettings which are due to be announced shortly."

It is understood that the former Easons newsagents on Donegall Place is soon to be let to a new tenant.

And Spanish fashion retailer Zara is also due to take over a former Trespass store to the side of its existing store in Donegall Place

"By the end of the year there will be very limited vacancies in Donegall Place," she said.

She added that the closure of Pretty Green in Belfast was not a reflection of the health of the sector. "There have been no great number of administrations since Christmas, unlike previous years," she said.

Ben Turtle, a director at Savills in Northern Ireland, said it was also forecasting a good 2015 for retail, and was in discussions with multi national retailers.

Belfast Telegraph

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