Belfast Telegraph

Family-owned retailer eyes sale to UK giant

The owners of a retail outlet in one of the few towns in Northern Ireland without a Tesco, Sainsbury's or Asda have said they are considering selling up to a UK multiple.

O'Kane Supermarkets in Magherafelt said they were in talks with "several major multiple retailers" about selling their 30,000 sq ft Ballyronan Road Supervalu.

Around 95 people are employed in the store, which is on a two-acre site close to the town centre.

A spokesman said: "Interest in the site is considered high as it presents a credible alternative to a new-build for the prospective purchasers, who already have existing superstores in Cookstown, Antrim and Ballymena.

"We have had several serious approaches and talks are currently ongoing. Obviously, we will consider all offers on their merits."

Last week, councillors in the town voted against a proposal by Magherafelt developer Conway Group to build a store at Moneymore Road on the outskirts of the town.

But a spokesman for the group said the town was losing grocery spend to other nearby towns, and that "the vast majority of residents" wanted a major supermarket in the town.

"Our proposal would help claw back that significant retail leakage by bringing a major retailer to Magherafelt, providing more choice, better quality and convenience, and better value for money for the people of the area.

"It is also very clear that the local unemployed and young people of Magherafelt would want the opportunity of new jobs, training and investment in their own town that a new supermarket would bring."

The spokesman said the group hoped to discuss the application.

But Paul Stewart, president of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association - which made a joint presentation with a residents' association to councillors - said Conway Group should withdraw its application.

"As we said to councillors, we would welcome a multiple supermarket to the town centre but not in an out-of-town location which would threaten local jobs, small businesses and the viability of the town centre."