NEW jobs are to be created throughout Northern Ireland after the opening of the first of Topps Tiles' planned eight showrooms.
The Manchester-founded company's debut store here opened at the Abbey Retail Park, Newtownabbey, creating two new jobs and paving the way for an estimated seven more stores.
It is understood the search is now on to find suitably sized commercial properties – of between 3,000 to 5,000 square feet – to accommodate the scheduled series of new branches.
The new members of staff recruited at the Longwood Road site have joined two people who have relocated to help establish the new 4500 square foot showroom, close to the Abbey Centre.
The store opened last Saturday and is part of an ongoing expansion in the company, which was set up in 1963 and has 320 shops in the UK
It's understood the showroom will 'test the water' in the market before more expansion into the rest of the Northern Ireland is finalised.
Chartered surveyor Eamonn Murphy, who acted in Topps Tiles' acquisition of the Co Antrim site, confirmed the company was seeking further premises.
He said the company had an ambition of opening approximately eight stores within a planned three to four-year timescale.
"It will next focus on opening up a second store in the greater Belfast area, ideally the Boucher Road area – again, ideally by the first half of next year... depending on the availability of space."
"They are a Great Britain-based firm and they felt it was a natural progression to move into Northern Ireland," he added.
He said the firm also planned to expand into the Republic of Ireland in future.
Topps Tiles sells a range of tiles and wood flooring and provides experts in-store to advise householders and tradespeople with 'how-to DVDs' and 'inspiration stations'.
Kevin Nicol, area business manager, said: "We're thrilled to be opening our first store in Northern Ireland.
"This marks a huge milestone for Topps Tiles and we're delighted to be able to bring our expertise and exciting product range to DIY enthusiasts in Belfast."
He added: "We have huge amounts of experience and look forward to providing advice and inspiration to our new customers and building relationships with people across Belfast through dedicated Topps Tiles trade accounts."
The company employs around 1,500 people across the UK.
The estimated number of Topps Tiles stores planned for the future