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Sainsbury’s opening two new Argos stores in Northern Ireland revamp

By Margaret Canning

Argos is to open new stores, with another two relocating, as owner Sainsbury's gets to grip with its latest acquisition, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal. But the company, which has 700 employees here, is shutting its Portadown branch in July and relocating staff to shops in Craigavon and Armagh.

It is also opening new locations in Forestside Shopping Centre, in south Belfast, and Carrickfergus Sainsbury's, and relocating in Bangor and Ballymena.

Sainsbury's acquired Home Retail Group, which owned Argos, in a £1.4bn deal last year.

The roll-out of the new branches will include the launch of Argos concessions inside Sainsbury's supermarkets.

The firm described the opening of the Forestside location, set for the former Sainsbury's off-licence, as its first "digital store" here. The move is part of a £2.5m investment in the shopping centre by Sainsbury's.

Stephen Kelly, regional manager for Sainsbury's Argos, said: "It's optimised for the way people are shopping with us today, with many starting online and coming in to pick up. The store layout makes that very easy." He added that the business would be moving away from the use of its familiar laminated catalogues in stores, instead switching to tablet computers.

A new Argos concession is opening in Sainsbury's in Carrickfergus on April 5, while the Ballymena shop will relocate a week later to Braidwater Retail Park. The Argos in Bangor, meanwhile, is relocating from the Bloomfield Shopping Centre to the Sainsbury's in Balloo.

There are a total of 27 Argos stores here, and Mr Kelly said the Portadown branch was the only location which had been identified for closure.

"We're continuing to look through the rest of the stores and, where possible, to relocate if it's better for customers or there's a business reason," he explained.

The future of stores would be considered if leases come up for renewal, but there is no definite plan," Mr Kelly stressed.

He added that the Forestside shop would contain 10,000 different lines for immediate pick-up, with another 20,000 lines that can be delivered to the store or to a customer's home on the same day. "Every store has a very sophisticated warehouse system that allows you to really pack it in," he said.

Mr Kelly, who has worked for the company for 21 years, added: "The acquisition by Sainsbury's is exciting and is bringing loads of exciting opportunities."

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