Co Down shopping centre The Quays has started work on a £20m expansion with the creation of 500 new jobs as it benefits from a post-Brexit increase in cross-border retail.
The retail and leisure destination, which is part of the property empire of millionaire Gerard O’Hare, is adding 100,000 sq ft in space, with construction being carried out by building firm O’Hare and McGovern.
And a spokesman for Quays parent company Parker Green International said the project would enable it to host “some of the UK’s most prestigious retail brands”.
Details of the new brands which will arrive as part of phase five of the centre’s development are to be given over the next few weeks. Dr Gerard O’Hare said: “I am delighted that works have now commenced on phase five, immediately creating 200 construction jobs and a further 300 full and part-time positions in retail in the months ahead.
“This project demonstrates that both The Quays and Newry remain at the premiership level of retail demand, being the largest retail development in Northern Ireland since the recession,” he said.
“Ultimately, this major investment will help secure the commercial vitality of Newry city centre and the greater Newry region”.
And commercial manager Garrett O’Hare said the Brexit result — and the accompanying fall in the value of sterling — had helped increase trade at the centre, as more shoppers from the Republic made the journey to Newry.
“We certainly have seen an increase in cross-border trade over the past number of months and are expecting a very busy Christmas season, not least, with the opening of a number of new stores in the existing part of the scheme between now and November.”
The Quays Shopping Centre is currently home to brands including Oasis, Waterstones, Next and H&M, and is anchored by a Sainsbury’s supermarket.
During a boom in cross-border shopping around 2008, the Sainsbury’s off-licence at The Quays was reported to be its busiest in the UK as shoppers from the Republic flocked to take advantage of cheaper prices for alcohol.
The new plans for the Quays Shopping Centre emerged after a report commissioned for Belfast City Council claimed that its retail offering would suffer without further investment.
The report by retail consultancy Javelin said Belfast would lose its high spenders without a multimillion-pound injection from a high-end department store such as John Lewis or Harvey Nichols. And it called John Lewis setting up in Sprucefield the “worse case scenario” for the city.