Belfast Telegraph

Clothing retailer Pep&Co looks to open 10 Northern Ireland stores

Exclusive by John Mulgrew

Budget high street retailer Pep&Co is set to open between five and 10 stores in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The clothing and homeware store opened its its first outlet in England at the beginning of July, with other stores following suit.

And at the time the firm said it had no plans to open in Northern Ireland.

But it's understood the low-cost retailer - which was set up by former Asda boss Andy Bond - is now looking at up to 10 new spots across the Province.

Pep&Co have said they haven't formally announced any further expansion plans, and maintain "there are no current plans to open any stores in Northern Ireland in 2016".

But it's understood commercial property agents Savills has been appointed to scout out new locations for the retailer in Northern Ireland, and throughout the UK as a whole.

The Watford-based business is being backed by an initial £20m of investment from investment vehicle Pepkor UK.

The chain sells a range of cheap clothing, including childrenswear for less than £5, as well as homeware products.

Pep&Co had said its initial opening in Great Britain will be on what it calls secondary high streets - areas which retail observers say have flagging town centres.

The retailer's day-to-day operations are being led by managing director Adrian Mountford, who has held senior roles at Matalan, Sainsburys and Bhs.

In an interview last month, Mr Mountford said the some 50 stores it already operates could become 900 down the line.

It's yet another sign of the rise of the discounters, with high street clothing giant Primark witnessing booming sales, while 'pound shops' have been taking up units across the UK, according to the Ulster University's Donald McFetridge.

"The success of discount chains like Aldi, Lidl, B&M, Poundland, Poundworld and Home Bargains is proof positive that there is a market out there for those keen to seek out and spend money in bargain and discount chains," he said.

Meanwhile, Danish variety store Tiger is opening its first store at Castle Lane in Belfast.

And in the world of the supermarkets, the latest figures show German giant Lidl is continuing to take chunks out of the other big name multiples such as Tesco and Sainsburys.

Lidl's share has increased by more than a fifth, year-on-year, while both Tesco and Sainsburys have witnessed a drop in their sales, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

While it still only has 5.1% of the market here, it's set to expand on its 38 stores.

Meanwhile, New York fashion retailer Aeropostale has revealed it will open a Belfast store, alongside a further nine across Ireland, in the next five years.

Belfast Telegraph

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