Northern Ireland's fastest-growing supermarket Lidl is to open five new Belfast stores in a £32m investment creating more than 100 permanent jobs.
The construction of new outlets will also support up to 1,000 jobs in their areas during the development and construction phases.
The new locations are at Castlereagh Road, Hillview Retail Park on Crumlin Road, Boucher Road, Holywood Exchange and Shore Road.
And the Boucher Road supermarket will have a drive-thru cafe facility, pending planning permission.
The first of the five stores will open this Thursday at Holywood Exchange, bringing the retailer's store count to 40 here. And with a total of 42 when the new stores are open, Lidl will be coming close to number one grocer Tesco's footprint of 50 stores.
Lidl said its current site at the junction of Castlereagh and Montgomery Road is to close, and a new concept store will be built on a nearby vacant site, while its Shore Road store will be rebuilt.
The stores will each be around 2,100 sq m in size with what Lidl described as a larger, modern and spacious fit-out with a significant emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency. The new stores are expected to open before the end of 2022.
Alan Barry, director of property and construction for Lidl, said: "With more than 20 years of growth behind us, we are delighted to renew our commitment for growth into a new decade with a significant additional investment and new jobs created. Confirmation of our new store plans is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our colleagues and our high-quality, low-price proposition which has resonated so well and even more so in these challenging times.
"I'm delighted that by adding new stores at Boucher Road, Holywood Exchange and at Hillview Retail Park, and by expanding our footprint, we will be serving thousands of people in new communities in and around the city with the highest quality products at the best prices on the market."
Plans for a Boucher Road store, to be built on excess lands at Olympia Leisure Centre, are at pre-application community consultation phase.
The German retailer says all of the new outlets will take on its "state-of-the-art' new concept.
The news comes as the supermarket brand consistently takes a bigger chunk of the grocery sector in NI, upping its share of the market on a monthly basis.
Economy Minister Diane Dodds welcomed the company's investment and commitment to the region and its ambitions for the future. She said: "I'm continually impressed by the increasing contribution which Lidl Northern Ireland continues to make to our economy, to local businesses and to our communities.
"In just over two decades, it has grown exponentially, increasing employment and opportunities while working in close partnership with many of our home-grown food producers. I wish all the team every success on its renewed growth and on delivering its plans for the future."
Lidl has invested in its CSR too over the years, with a range of programmes and initiatives created to help support the commuities in which it operates and its decision to be the anchor store at a shopping mall, which has lain dormant for 14 years,is set to breathe new life into the Crumlin Road area of Belfast.
Business Telegraph revealed earlier this year that the retailer would hold the anchor spot at Hillview Retail Park, which will be ready to open to the public late next year.
Research from Kantar last month showed that Lidl was the only one of the four big multiples to add new shoppers over the last year as it recorded sales growth of nearly 15%.
It also increased its market share by 0.2 percentage points to 6.3% last month.
Speaking about the growth at Lidl stores here last month, Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar, said: "Lidl was top of the table as the strongest performing retailer once again this period - growing ahead of the market at 14.8% over the 52 weeks and gaining 0.2 percentage points in share. Significantly larger trips, with volumes up 18.3%, contributed an additional £35 million to Lidl's overall growth. Lidl was also the only retailer to welcome new shoppers through its doors this period, which added £1.9 million to its total sales."
And an independent review of Lidl's operations published by Oxford Economics last year showed that Lidl Northern Ireland, which opened its first store here in Cookstown in 1999, already contributes around £180m annually to the local economy and sustains more than 3,500 jobs.
Lidl has also been active in CSR programmes including its Community Works scheme, which supports local sports and youth clubs as well as a recent partnership it set up with food charity Fareshare back in March.
The move saw it launch an emergency food appeal in stores across Northern Ireland calling on customers to purchase extra products for those in need.