Jewellery shop chain Argento, which began life as a stall on a Donegal beach, is set to open seven new stores in a £1m investment programme, it announced today.
New stores are to be opened in west Belfast's Kennedy Centre and in Portadown, while another in Scotland is to open in Inverness before the end of the year.
The company, founded by Pete Boyle from Strabane and still run by the entrepreneur, has already opened shops in Dundee and Stirling in recent months.
Mr Boyle said: "We are really pleased to be able confirm plans to extend our unique, quality jewellery offering to even more customers across Northern Ireland and Scotland by opening seven new Argento and Pandora stores in key areas where we see further growth opportunity."
Two other stores will open in Northern Ireland this year in yet-unidentified locations, bringing its store estate to 50 and adding around 50 new jobs to its 350-strong workforce.
The company is the UK and Ireland's biggest retailer of brands Pandora, Thomas Sabo and Nomination, and also sells its own-brand jewellery under the labels Karma, August Woods and Dirty Ruby.
Mr Boyle started his career in jewellery by selling Celtic-style trinkets from a beach in Rossnowlagh in the 1990s. He said: "This latest investment provides us with an important opportunity to increase our brand presence and customer base in a series of new, strategic locations and delivers on our commitment to assist in the revitalisation of the High Street and in the development of the main trading areas of our towns and cities."
Mr Boyle said the company would continue to invest in its website. He added: "The market for quality, branded but affordable jewellery remains strong and the outlook is bright.
"Since Argento was established in 1997, we have invested heavily in building brand presence on the High Street, in shopping centres, and online, and I believe that this latest investment will really give us the edge to push the company rapidly forward.
"This £1m expansion programme not only underlines the confidence and support we have for our traditional in-store customers and our commitment to investing in the High Street, it also shows that we are particularly keen to drive even more growth online."
The company has said it will incorporate new design features in its stores, including red 'Belfast brick' feature walls, wooden floors and cabinets in the bright yellow familiar from the Harland & Wolff cranes.