Plus-size bra shop Bravissimo to open in Belfast
Big is beautiful when it comes to busts and bosoms. And such are the developing decolletages of Northern Ireland's women that specialist bigger-bra brand Bravissimo is opening up in Belfast to cater for the growing D to L cup market, writes Margaret Canning.
Royal Avenue will be the location of the company's flagship Ireland store and it hopes that women from all around Ireland – and perhaps a few hapless husbands and partners – will rush there for frilly fripperies.
The vacant shop it has chosen is the former Harry Corry homewares store and marks the first big opening in recession-hit Royal Avenue in around three years.
Indeed, it is the first opening of a standalone bra shop in Belfast in around two years, since the Bra Boutique opened its doors on Arthur Street, though it later closed.
And a year later, La Senza went... bust, leaving its customers without the support of a big underwear chain in Belfast.
Bravissimo press officer Becci Vincent said the company had been scouting premises here for years, such was the demand from Northern Ireland for its catalogue wares.
Unsurprisingly, size was important.
"As a business, we find it really, really difficult to find retail locations because we want a small shopfloor but massive, massive stock rooms. For every single bra we stock, there can be 90 sizes we need to keep in stock."
Surveyor Eamonn Murphy, who helped Bravissimo find the store, which is due to open in April, said: "Our client has been looking at Belfast for some time for a suitable store. When the right building came up that suited their trading style, they jumped at the chance to get into Belfast and Northern Ireland."
Brian Kidd, of Frazer Kidd and Partners, who represented the landlords, said Bravissimo's bold move would boost further interest in the remaining 3,000sq ft available in the building.
Royal Avenue isn't the only area to see a new retail business in 2014. British outerwear brand Joules is expanding into Belfast with a shop on Arthur Street, which in the last few years has seen a string of expensive new shops.
The area has benefited from new footfall resulting from its closeness to Victoria Square shopping centre – home to House of Fraser, which last week said its Belfast store had reported the second-highest jump in festive sales of all its 60 UK department stores.
Colin Mathewson, retail director at agents Osborne King, said the new ventures were good news.
"Bravissimo had been looking for premises on and off for a few years and Joules are an exceptionally well-known brand who will sit perfectly with Jigsaw, Cath Kidston and Jack Wills in Arthur Street," he said.
"Although vacancy levels still remain a concern in the city centre and challenges such as the bomb scares/attacks in the run-up to Christmas do not help, it is clear that positive progress is being made and I would expect that vacancy levels will now start to fall back as we go through 2014."