ONE of Belfast's most popular shopping centres is to lose four big retail names by the end of this month.
In a major blow to customers at Forestside, the Belfast Telegraph understands that River Island is to close, along with Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Evans.
Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Evans – all part of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group, which also includes Top Shop and Top Man – will close their doors by the end of July after their leases expire.
High street fashion giant River Island is set to close imminently.
An AG spokesman said it is hoped the small number of staff affected will be redeployed in other shops where possible, while it is understood River Island staff are being redeployed in the city.
A retail expert said while the news is a shock, the centre – which includes a flagship Sainsbury's, a large Marks & Spencer and Dunnes outlets – will not be too badly hit.
Donald McFetridge from the University of Ulster said that, if anything, the south Belfast centre is "over-shopped".
He added: "The Arcadia Group is very profitable and popular so it is a bit of a shock to hear that three stores from this stable are closing.
"Sir Philip Green is very proactive in terms of online shopping and there are big global expansion plans for the Top Shop and Top Man brands announced just last week.
"Having said that, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Evans are very hard to tell apart in terms of pricing and product if you are a consumer."
However, Mr McFetridge believes Forestside will not suffer as it is a centre in demand.
He said: "If anything it could be described as over-shopped, with a lot of people reporting problems getting parked there at peak times.
"These units should not be hard to fill."
An AG spokesman said: "We are constantly reviewing our store portfolio across the group and leases continually expire or come up for renewal.
"When leases expire that we do not renew, we endeavour to re-deploy staff affected to another store within the Arcadia Group as much as we can."
The losses come after A Wear, HMV and Game closed and vacated their units at the centre.
A Forestside spokesman said new tenants are already being lined up to fill the up-coming voids with Vision Express the first to open an outlet next month.