Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland furniture shop closing down after rent increase of £100,000

By Margaret Canning

Retailers here have faced a tough start to the year with a rental increase of £100,000 in a key shopping area prompting one furniture firm to take the decision to close down, it has emerged.

Phillip Logan of Uno on Boucher Road in south Belfast said he had decided to close down after facing a rent increase of £100,000 per year.

He has occupied the premises on a 10-year lease but has now decided to exercise a five-year break clause in the agreement.

And he said he felt more fortunate than others as he was able to exit from his lease.   

Boucher Road is mainly home to large warehouse-style units occupied by retailers selling ‘big ticket’ items like furniture and cars. But others such as fashion firm New Look and electronics firm Maplin who have shops in the area are also facing difficulties. New Look has negotiated rent reductions on some of its Northern Ireland stores, while Maplin is closing its four stores down after going into administration.

Mr Logan — who is a former DUP MLA — said he now plans to invest heavily in his Algram furniture showroom in Harryville, Ballymena.

“Not having a Stormont and an Executive at the minute does give a lot more uncertainty for consumers,” he said.

He added that he believed many types of retailer — from cars to furniture — had experienced a fall in sales of around 30% during March.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of retail trade body Retail NI, said: “We have always been aware when our members are going through rent reviews that it can be a significant problem, especially when accompanied by higher rates.

“We would always appeal to landlords to be realistic about what retailers can afford, particularly as they are already facing rising costs from wages and auto-enrolment of pensions.”

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics said retail sales have seen their biggest quarterly fall in a year as the Beast from the East kept shoppers at home.

Sales fell by 1.2% in March, sucked down by a 7.4% drop in petrol sales as the adverse weather conditions hit travel, the Office for National Statistics said.

Sales were down 0.5% for the first quarter as a whole compared with the last three months of 2017, their biggest quarterly fall since the first quarter of 2017, with declines in all sectors except for department stores and non-store retailing.

The impact of the bad weather follows February’s 0.8% increase in sales as prices rose at their smallest year-on-year rate since January last year.

Department stores were the only sector to show positive growth in March.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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