The sale of three Arcadia Group brands to online fashion giant Asos will change the make-up of NI's high streets forever, a commercial property expert said.
Administrators for Arcadia announced Asos has purchased Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge for £265m, plus £65m for current and pre-ordered stock.
Paul Wilson, director at commercial property agents Savills, said he is hopeful that the bigger units leased out by Arcadia will attract attention, but says their large scale makeup will demand some "repurposing" to accommodate a mix of tenants.
"There is no question that the high street is going to change and these changes have been accelerated by Covid-19. Today the high street must have relevance, and that is going to be in the form of a different experience to what it was.
"It will be a mix of alternative and interactive," Mr Wilson added.
Asos' deal with Arcadia will mean the closure of around 34 stores here, putting 280 jobs at risk. At present the group has around 65 outlets across NI, 31 of which are concessions within department stores like Menarys.
Mr Wilson added: "Certainly we are talking to retailers who are seeing opportunity as well. The Asos buyout is taking out competition on the high street, which makes way for those who are not represented here or are under-spaced or sitting in a secondary unit.
"It is by no means good news to lose these brands, but there's always movement in the market. We won't see every shop filled but some, especially the flagship spaces carrying 20,000 or 30,000 square feet will get interest, but we could be looking at alternative uses for these units including retail, leisure, hospitality, office use, residential, a whole mix."
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI described the sale as "dreadful news.
"Our high streets can have a future, but it will be very different one which will be based on making them fun, family-friendly and above else, providing an experience for the shopper."
He said independent retailers will be a "key part of the new 21st century high street,"