Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland furniture shop closing after 150 years

Rankin's boss retires after five decades in business

By Emma Deighan

A Northern Ireland family furniture store is closing down after more than 150 years in business.

Rankin's has sold the premises on Great Victoria Street, Belfastfollowing current owner Robert Rankin's decision to retire. Three members of staff will lose their jobs.

The business, which began in Royal Avenue when Robert's grandfather's great uncle joined JC Mayers in the 1850s, moved to 83-85 Great Victoria street in 1928.

In 1993, a fire destroyed the building which saw the Rankin family create the present day purpose-built unit for their furniture showroom.

Rankin's is best known for its living and dining room furniture, as well as its Vispring mattresses which cost around £4,000 each.

Over the years, Robert said that his business faced many challenges, including the rise of internet shopping and bombings during the Troubles.

"I remember one day in the 1970s looking out onto the street and there was no traffic on the road. We wondered where everyone had gone," said Mr Rankin.

"A binman alerted us that there was a bomb, so we ran out the back of the shop and just as we got outside the bomb went off.

"I remember there was a wardrobe on display in the front window - we never found it," he said.

Mr Rankin noted how the economy over the years had influenced consumer trends.

"In my time, we've faced three recessions and after every recession we've seen a change in taste. We've gone from teak wood to mahogany, Mexican pine and today, oak, but the biggest challenge is the competition from the internet," he said.

"People want to buy things as cheap as possible. They may come in and see it here but then they go online to buy it cheaper.

"The likes of DFS destroyed the upholstery market and had an impact on sales too as we used to offer that as a service.

"People started to get things on credit like 'buy now, pay in four years' deals and that marked the end of upholstery."

Mr Rankin said he would be sad to close the family business. "It's been a long time, and yes, I will miss it but I have enjoyed the past 50 years," said the 65-year-old.

Mr Rankin put his store up for sale in 2016 for £1.2m. It was sold last week.

One temporary member of staff and two long-term staff members will lose their jobs when the store shuts in December. A closing down sale is now on with reductions of up to 40% currently available.

"After we close down, I will be available for contact through a website for customers who need help with repairs or any other needs," said Mr Rankin.

Belfast Telegraph