Belfast Telegraph

Life Style Sports creating 20 jobs with new Belfast store: Chain planning further five outlets

Exclusive by John Mulgrew

Around 20 new jobs are being created with the opening of a new Life Style Sports outlet in Belfast with plans for a further five new stores in the works, it can be revealed.

Ireland's largest sports retail chain will open its flagship Northern Ireland store at Victoria Square tomorrow.

It currently has four outlets in Northern Ireland, including one at CastleCourt shopping centre in Belfast.

Its other stores are at Rushmere in Craigavon, the Richmond Centre in Londonderry and Erneside in Enniskillen.

It's also eyeing up similar sized units across Northern Ireland in high footfall areas.

And it's planning five further stores over the next three years.

Property firm Savills is on the lookout for the new store locations across Northern Ireland.

Paul Wilson, director of retail at Savills, said the new Life Style Sports store "will offer a complete range of sports performance and sports fashion clothing and footwear providing a new retail experience for Victoria Square and Belfast's shopper".

"We have been sourcing a suitable-sized property in the city for some time on behalf of Life Style Sports and are delighted that the landlord of Victoria Square recognised the strength and quality of the unique and premium offering and concept that Life Style provide in this vibrant sector of the retail market, which has underpinned their strong sales and share growth in recent years."

He said the latest store would be "greatly influenced by Life Style's flagship store on Grafton Street in Dublin".

The new outlet will sit across from a number of other big brands in Victoria Square, including Cruise Fashion, Hugo Boss and Ted Baker.

Work is currently being completed to fit out the new store, which is due to open tomorrow.

It'll be up against other sports stores at Victoria Square, including JD Sports, but will also soon be competing with a new Sports Direct outlet in the city centre.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has bought Donegall Arcade, with plans to soon open his first Sports Direct store in the heart of Belfast city centre.

And Victoria Square has had a number of new store openings over the last few months.

That includes former Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis's new lingerie store, Boux Avenue, which opened late last year.

Meanwhile, footfall on Northern Ireland's high streets dropped even further as spring failed to bounce life back into the retail sector.

The figures collected by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium showed footfall was down by 1.5% year-on-year for the five weeks between February 28 and April 2.

However, the UK average drop in footfall was even more dramatic, falling by 2.7% year-on-year.

The results for Northern Ireland were also less pronounced than the fall for the previous five-week period when the consortium figures showed year-on-year footfall was down by just over 5% compared to 1.1% across the UK as a whole.

But Aodhan Connolly, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director, said the retail industry here "requires more certainty from the next Executive".

"There must be clear, bold and effective decisions made to support an industry which employs over 70,000 directly and more through the supply chain," he said.

"A concerted effort needs to be made by all to make Northern Ireland a more competitive place to do business.

"We need the devolved Executive to recognise the cumulative burden faced by retailers in areas as diverse as business rates, the National Living Wage and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

"Policy-makers must support retailers to allow us to continue to invest and play our part in a strong recovery here in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph