New Look staff say 70 jobs will be axed with the closure of Donegall Place flagship store
Around 70 jobs are expected to go at fashion chain New Look as it confirmed it will shut its Donegall Place store in Belfast this month, with a new Primark opening in its place.
New Look said it will shut the flagship store at Fountain House on January 15 and said there are no plans to relocate anywhere else.
But the retailer would not comment on claims from aggrieved staff on social media that up to 70 people are being made redundant as a result.
New Look has a smaller store in the city's CastleCourt Shopping Centre, but closed its Forestside Shopping Centre store in south Belfast in November.
New Look last year announced a programme of closures and negotiations for rent reductions as part of cost-cutting in a form of insolvency known as a company voluntary arrangement.
Rent reductions were agreed - but it's understood landlords were given the option to give New Look notice to leave their units if the retailer did not want to accept a reduced rent and they felt confident of attracting a new tenant.
New Look now has around 24 stores around Northern Ireland. But there was no further information about whether any other stores here will be closed.
Primark last month confirmed its plans to open in Donegall Place in the spring, following the launch of a new shop at the back of its Bank Buildings unit, which was destroyed in a fire at the end of August.
In September last year, a Primark spokesman said that the group was in talks about buying Fountain House in Donegall Place.
But shoppers posting on Facebook were sympathetic about the plight of New Look staff.
"Poor staff out of jobs what a way to start the new year for them," one remarked.
The loss of jobs at New Look is another setback for the retail sector. Last week, music retailer HMV - which has just one store left in Northern Ireland, just yards from Bank Buildings - announced it was going into administration.
The move puts the jobs of 2,200 staff across 130 stores around the UK at risk.
And men's value clothing retailer, Blue Inc, also went into administration last month. It had already closed five of its 10 stores in Northern Ireland.
Ladieswear and interiors firm, Laura Ashley, also announced last month it is to close 40 of its 160 stores.
It has four stores in Northern Ireland - in Omagh, Bangor, Coleraine and on south Belfast's Boucher Road.