Belfast Telegraph

Home Bargains adds 65 new jobs at Connswater superstore but Harry Corry on the move

By John Mulgrew

A revamp of Connswater Retail Park in east Belfast will see 65 jobs created as part of a new £1m Home Bargains superstore, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

But it means an existing Harry Corry outlet will shut its doors as early as March as the new business moves in.

Home Bargains will take over the Harry Corry unit, which will be merged with premises currently occupied by Lidl. The German discounter is moving to a larger unit at then retail park.

It's understood Harry Corry staff will be redeployed elsewhere and that the company is in talks about finding a new location.

Connswater Shopping Centre, located beside the retail park, is also selling one of its major units, which includes part of the former Tesco store left behind when the supermarket pulled out last year. Retail experts highlighted their concerns over Connswater following the closure of Dunnes Stores in February and Tesco in April.

The new tenant makes it increasingly unlikely Connswater will attract another big grocery retailer to the centre in the near future.

Plans submitted to Belfast City Council detail the amalgamation of two retail units, including a change of use, for the new Home Bargains store.

A planning statement on behalf of Connswater says: "The introduction of a Home Bargains at this location will clearly complement the existing facilities and stem any leakage for this type of retail offer."

The Connswater centre and retail park are owned by property developer Frank Boyd. Last year Belfast City Council gave the green light to Lidl's plans for a new store at Connswater Retail Park.

Connswater has been struggling to find a big-name retailer to fill the void left by Tesco and Dunnes.

The Lidl decision was a turnaround for the council, which had previously indicated it would reject the plans.

It argued there were other suitable vacant sites, such as the former Tesco and Dunnes premises at Connswater, and vacant sites at the Park Centre in west Belfast and at Forestside in the south of the city.

Meanwhile, Harry Corry will now have to find a new suitable site in east Belfast to replace its Connswater store.

In its latest accounts, the company returned to profits of more than £1m. That was just a year after it posted losses and entered into an agreement to pay part of its debts to creditors.

Boss Willie Corry said an agreed reduction in the rent the firm pays for its shops, a boost in online sales and an improved retail landscape helped the firm to turn its fortunes around.

It posted pre-tax profits of £1.18m for the year to the end of February 2016, a major turnaround from a loss of £653,000 a year earlier. Turnover increased from £40.16m to £41.3m.

"It's paying market rents which has made a difference," Mr Corry said.

Belfast Telegraph