JD Sports plans new £2m store in Belfast city centre
Retailer JD Sports is planning a new £2m flagship store close to rival Sports Direct in Belfast's Castle Place, Business Telegraph can reveal.
The development at the former DV8 store site will be a major boost for the location which was badly hit by last year's Primark fire and the departure of BHS. It's also a stepping up of competition between JD Sports and Sports Direct, located a mere few doors down.
MSM Contracts is working on the hollowed out, exposed shell of the building.
The building will not be finished until autumn next year and is expected to mark a £2m investment by JD Sports.
JD Sports said it would not be commenting.
There are already two JD Sports in the city centre, at Donegall Place and Victoria Square, but it's not clear whether either will shut as a result of the new opening.
Access to Castle Place was heavily restricted last year following the Primark fire, and many businesses were forced to close because of fears of the collapse of the damaged building.
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Retail chiefs welcomed news of JD Sports' plans.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium, said: "Any new retail investment in the current economic climate is welcome, but particularly in Belfast city centre which has had one of the toughest trading years in memory.
"This goes to show that large retailers still see Belfast, and Northern Ireland as a whole, as a sound investment.
"However, if we are to keep this momentum we need a government to take decisions on critical decisions such as business rates and the Apprenticeship Levy so Northern Ireland can compete with our neighbours to the east and south."
Simon Hamilton, chief executive of Belfast Chamber, said: "Any new investment in the city is good news.
"Belfast is a desirable place to do business and we would welcome any new business, large or small to set up shop here."
The rivalry between Sports Direct and JD Sports has heated up over access to brands such as Nike and Adidas. Earlier this year Sports Direct claimed JD's takeover of Footasylum could restrict its access to top brands.
DV8 closed its Castle Place store in September, but still has other stores in the city centre in CastleCourt Shopping Centre and in Ann Street. DV8 is part of family company Glenbeigh, owned by the McMahon family from Portadown.
A note in the Glenbeigh Ltd's latest company accounts states that the Primark fire had resulted in the closure of the biggest store in its estate. The company has also run menswear business JR McMahon in Portadown's High Street since 1956.