Eason's to close two shops and cut 25 jobs
Around 25 jobs are to go as Irish book giant Eason's shuts two stores and an office in Northern Ireland.
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The bookseller blamed declining sales for its decision to pull down the shutters in Carryduff, Co Down and Westwood Shopping Centre in west Belfast next month.
It also announced the closure in June of an administrative centre in Boucher Crescent in the city with the centre's functions to be transferred to Dublin.
A spokesman said: "Consultation will commence immediately with all the staff affected by these closures. The total number of employees involved is 25."
Eason's will be left with 11 stores on this side of the border.
There will also be 150 redundancies throughout stores in the Republic in an overall strategy which the company said would address the "uncompetitive cost base" at Eason.
The family-run company gave details of the closures yesterday while also announcing an £8m investment programme over three years in Northern Ireland, including store refurbs, new IT systems and a dedicated Northern Ireland website.
Managing director Conor Whelan said: "We are confident that this programme will better position the group for the future...Our investment in new IT platforms will also deliver benefits across the group in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland".
Included in changes to its stores is the refurbishment of WH Smith's store on Donegall Place in Belfast, set to open as Eason in June after it was acquired from the British newsagent last year.
The old Eason's on Donegall Place will be closed and sold. Eason's sought around 25 voluntary redundancies from staff in both stores at the time of the acquisition. The company is also set to refurbish stores in Foyleside Shopping Centre and Bow Street, Lisburn this year.
A new children's department has been added to its store in Rushmere Shopping Centre, Craigavon.
Overall, the company said it was spending €30m (£35m) on investing and restructuring the group across Ireland, where it has around 60 stores.
Eason's also promised "new, creative concepts" in how products like books and stationery are sold. Mr Whelan said: "A number of the new retail strategy initiatives have been developed and rolled out in the last year and are starting to deliver.
"Our programme to upgrade and refurbish stores in Northern Ireland is significant and will improve the Eason's experience for our customers."