M&S to close Junction outlet after dip in shoppers at retail village
Marks & Spencer is to shut its outlet unit at The Junction in Antrim, placing 34 jobs at risk.
The store was on a list of 17 UK branches identified for closure yesterday by the retailer.
M&S said the move is part of its programme to reshape its store estate.
However, the company said it still intended to open a new branch in Carrickfergus in the summer.
Its only other outlet store here is at The Boulevard in Banbridge, which experienced a 22% boom in shoppers during December.
It will continue trading.
Simon Layton, head of region for Marks & Spencer Northern Ireland, said: "The decision to propose the closure of our outlet store at The Junction has been a difficult one.
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"Supporting our hard-working colleagues is our priority.
"We'll be speaking with them individually over the coming weeks about what's best for them.
"Our commitment to ongoing food expansion in Northern Ireland will continue with the opening of a new store in Carrickfergus."
The plan to shut the discount outlet at The Junction comes six months after shoe retailer Clarks closed its outlet store at the Co Antrim retail park, which was bought by property firm The Lotus Group in 2016.
The Co Down property group said yesterday that footfall figures for The Junction during December were 2.55% down on its 2017 performance.
While slightly below the UK average, which reflected a 2.6% decline, the drop was in stark decline to some other shopping hubs here, which saw record numbers passing through during the Christmas period.
Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon, Co Armagh, reported its most successful Christmas in 42 years with a 15% jump in shoppers.
And Ballymena's Fairhill Shopping Centre in Co Antrim reported a 7% rise in footfall during December compared to the previous year.
Lotus said The Junction was currently undergoing a significant revamp.
Despite the loss of Marks and Spencer, The Junction saw the addition of McDonald's, Intersport, Bonmarche and Beauty Outlet last year.
Nandos is already among the brands confirmed to relocate to the site in 2019.
The Boulevard outside Banbridge, which is also owned by the Lotus Group, saw a much improved December, with footfall surging by 21.8% compared with 2017.
A spokesman for the property firm said: "The Junction is in the early stages of its £30m redevelopment masterplan and will be welcoming a number of new brands to the scheme in 2019.
"In comparison, The Boulevard is much further along in terms of redevelopment timelines. We look forward to seeing similar results with The Junction over the coming years."
The number of people employed by Marks & Spencer's outlet store at The Junction in Antrim