Nearly 350 jobs will be created through the opening of a new Sainsbury’s store at Balloo retail park in Bangor.
And Bangor’s town centre manager hopes it will curb the leaching of £84.5m of spending out of the borough every year.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King arrived in Northern Ireland last Thursday as the retailer made the announcement and also made a commitment to recruit at least 150 additional seasonal workers over the busy Christmas and New Year period.
The new store, at Balloo Industrial Estate, is due to open in November and recruitment is already underway. The 35,000sq ft store will be the supermarket’s 13th in Northern Ireland.
As part of his two-day visit Justin King took First Minister Peter Robinson on a tour of the Holywood Exchange store.
“I am very proud of the fact that during this time of continuing economic uncertainty Sainsbury’s is continuing to create employment locally and to provide our shoppers with great value for money,” said Mr King.
“Sainsbury’s also has an unrivalled record of supporting Northern Irish farmers and suppliers through our regional sourcing teams, helping to support the wider economy.”
Green Party MLA Steven Agnew gave the announcement a guarded welcome: “I have concerns about the opening of this new Sainsbury’s store and the knock on effect it will have on our local traders.
“While the headline might focus on the jobs it is supposed to |create, the question must be asked how many jobs it will cost in |the town centre when trade in locally-owned shops inevitably drops due to increased competition.
“There is no extra money in our economy at the moment and any cash spent in this multi-national will be coming out of the tills of our local traders.
“Any profits made by Sainsbury’s will go out of our economy and this will ultimately not be good for our local town centres.”
Bangor and Holywood Town Centre manager Stephen Dunlop told the Community Telegraph that he would have loved to have seen Sainsbury’s located in the town centre “but the hard reality of it is that a Victorian infrastructure such as Bangor’s doesn’t lend itself to a very large supermarket format”.
He added: “We have the ASDA store providing a strong town centre offer but little room for any more of Sainsbury’s scale.
“The broader area of Bangor leaks an estimated £84.5m every year to other centres so we do believe there is room for Sainsburys to help plug that loss.
“It also critically provides a further 250 jobs for North Down and valuable rating income to allow our council to invest in projects such as the new swimming pool and a refurbished Pickie Park.
“What many people fail to grasp is that the future of town centres is not just about a good strong retail mix but having facilities that attract people for social as well as commercial reasons.”