Belfast Telegraph

Brexit, bras and pasties the most read business stories 0f 2016 on

By Margaret Canning

From Brexit to bakery chain Greggs' arrival in Northern Ireland and the sale of some of our best-known companies from UTV to Chain Reaction Cycles, it has been an eventful year for local business.

But stories about nightclub owners, hotels, and shopping centres were the most popular for our online readers.

The case of a Co Down publican fined £6,000 for selling counterfeit vodka was the most popular business story on the Belfast Telegraph website this year, our analysis has shown.

Patrick Robert Maginn (55) from Bryansford Avenue, Newcastle, trading as Quinn's Bar and Off Sales, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Trade Marks Act.

The vodka he was selling was labelled as Smirnoff, but the beverage was tasted by a representative of Diageo, who declared it was fake.

Around 20 bottles of Smirnoff Red No 21 were identified as being counterfeit products.

A case was brought against the publican by Trading Standards - part of the Department for the Economy - and details of the case and its outcome were made public.

Alison Gilchrist, enforcement officer for Trading Standards, said at the time that Mr Maginn "potentially put consumers at serious risk to boost his profit margins".

Analysis by the team at our award-winning website found that with 34,500 readers, the tale was our online business section's most-read story of the year.

The rest of the Top 10 most-popular business stories on our website include a piece on Northern Ireland's Top 100 Companies, at number two in the list with 29,850 readers.

This year's chart, compiled by economist John Simpson, featured Dankse Bank at number one in the Top 100 with pre-tax profits of £139.7m. The bank enjoyed a strong lead on the number two-placed companies NI Water and NI Electricity, which had profits of £62m and £61.5m respectively.

On a much grander scale, it was a year for the unexpected, but the surprise vote to leave the European Union, following the referendum result was, unsurprisingly, a big draw for business readers here.

A call in the immediate aftermath of the result from Sinn Fein for a border poll to be held was the third-most popular story, attracting just over 25,100 readers.

Hotel and commercial property stories continued to attract tens of thousands of readers. Many were intrigued by plans for a luxury hotel resort in the Co Down town of Hillsborough - a story that attracted around 24,930 readers.

And a less cheering story about the gradual decline of Carryduff Shopping Centre was another big draw for readers, attracting around 20,600 people who read about how hairdresser Keith Kane had become the last man standing in the shopping mall.

Shopping was a preoccupation for our readers, reflected in the popularity of a story about value clothing giant Primark's plans to knock down Commonwealth House in Castle Street in order to carry out its major expansion in Royal Avenue.

Further down Belfast's main shopping strip, there was intrigue when a row began to brew between bakery chain Greggs and bra shop Bravissimo.

The undies retailer complained about the prospect of the food and drink business opening next door because of the fear that the smells of its sausage rolls and pasties would find their way onto bras and knickers.

In a return to the pub theme, the story of the boardroom bans given to the former owners of Rain nightclub in Belfast was a big hit online.

Ryan Morton (29) and Daniel Martin Morton (58), both from Ardmore Avenue in Belfast, were disqualified as company directors for nine and 10 years respectively over their conduct as directors of three pub companies.

The companies concerned had run the now closed Rain nightclub at Tomb Street in the city centre, along with Ronnie Drew's on May Street and Lily's on the Lisburn Road.

Approximately 17,300 readers also picked up on the administration of the company behind Larne's Curran Court Hotel. The hotel remains open throughout its administration, but there was much concern from readers, who shared memories of the venue online.

The top 10 stories

1: Counterfeit vodka: 34,528 readers

2: Top 100 Companies: 29,850

3: Brexit border poll: 25,116

4: Hillsborough resort: 24,931

5: Carryduff centre decline: 20,765

6: Portstewart coffee shop: 20,615

7: Commonwealth House and Primark: 19,916

8: Greggs-Bravissimo odour row: 19,637

9: Nightclub owners' boardroom ban: 19,172

10: Curran Court Hotel concern: 17,335

Belfast Telegraph