Belfast city centre enjoying retail revival as raft of stores open doors
Belfast city centre's shopping scene is undergoing a major revival that will see a raft of new stores opening before Christmas, one leading retail expert has said.
The Spanish-owned fashion retailer Stradivarius will unveil its third UK store this morning - in a prime location.
The sister brand of Zara has moved into the former Barratt's shoe shop in Donegall Place.
Colin Mathewson, senior director at CBRE, said the recent Brexit vote has not affected retailers' plans.
"The result of the EU referendum has had no impact so far on retailers and investors," he said. "Retailers are telling us that they intend to push ahead with plans for expansion and investment. There are a number of new openings in the pipeline over the next three months."
Mr Mathewson said the details of the new retailers were still under wraps, but they would include well-known international brands and several stores entering the Northern Ireland market for the first time.
"The city centre has been transformed in the past 12 months and there's been a significant decline in the number of vacancies," he said. "The Castle Lane area, in particular, is really picking up with new lettings. The big BHS store there will probably close later this month and although that's unfortunate, it does provide a major redevelopment opportunity that should provide some better quality retail space."
The new Belfast store for Stradivarius -with 4,100 sq ft of space - is part of the retailer's push into the UK market. It follows two shop openings in London, including a flagship store on Oxford Street, and an outlet due to be unveiled in Manchester today.
Although Stradivarius is a newcomer to the UK, it was established in Barcelona in 1994 and has more than 960 shops in 64 countries, as well as a major online retail operation. Part of the Inditex retail empire since 1999, Stradivarius opened 40 new stores in 2015 and reached a turnover of around £1bn for the year ended January 2016.
The brand is aimed at 20 to 35-year-old women and sells clothing, shoes, handbags and jewellery. Like Zara, it's known for "fast fashion", with street style and catwalk looks converted into ready-to-wear garments.