Zara is back in fashion for Northern Ireland customers as Belfast store reopens
Fans queue up as store reopens after Primark fire
For a lot of fashion-conscious people in Northern Ireland there is only one Zara - but for seven months there was none.
Now, however, the popular clothing store has reopened, a sure sign that Belfast is moving forward after a blaze at the nearby Primark store last August that devastated the local economy and forced 14 businesses to close.
Up to 30 people waited patiently in line outside Zara's Donegall Place shop yesterday to see what the Spanish fashion chain had to offer them this spring by way of on-trend clothes, shoes and accessories.
Near the front of the queue, ahead of pram-pushing young mums and self-confessed 'super shoppers', was blogger Tristan McGavigan (22), a Co Donegal native who lives in Belfast and calls himself a Zara mega-fan.
"Zara is my favourite shop - nowhere compares to Zara," the Ulster University student said, as the doors opened at 9.30am.
"My wardrobe is empty. I'm going to allow myself to spend £100 today. I intend to try on loads so I'm giving myself a good hour. How I've missed Zara!"
Demi-Louise Graham (25), a beautician from Belfast, said she was hoping to buy outfits for her 10-month-old son, Chester.
"I'm very excited, especially for Chester," she said. "No-one does clothes as nice as Zara. They're reasonably priced and durable. I'm hoping to get Chester's Easter outfit at least."
Student Claudia McClelland (23), from Lisburn, said she'd "really missed being able to walk into the store for a browse before lectures".
"The Primark fire has been a disaster for Belfast although the walkway has helped encourage a lot more foot traffic since Christmas," she said, adding: "I've got my eye on a couple of items but I'll need to wait until pay day."
Belfast homemaker Jinshu He (36) said: "I've been buying Zara clothes online since the Belfast store closed so it's great to see that the store has reopened."
Student Eilis McNamee (23), from Belfast, said Zara was "one of my favourite shops".
She added: "I can't wait to get my hands on some of the beautiful Paisley designs I've spotted."
Samantha Lamph (53), a homemaker who lives in Belfast, said she'd nipped down after hearing that it was reopening.
"I was worried that Zara wasn't coming back after the fire so I'm delighted because I used to shop here two or three times a week. I've really missed it. Zara's great for daywear and evening wear. It's very versatile," she said.
East Belfast civil servant Helen McKenna (32) admitted that she'd spent "a couple of hundred pounds" in less than an hour in the three-storey house of fashion. "I've mostly bought summer clothes for my two-year-old daughter Maiya," she said.
"I've been shopping online but I've missed the shopping experience which I hardly ever get now that I'm a mum!"
Glamorous Glengormley grandmother Liz Stitt (70), a retired visual merchandiser, said she was "delighted" with the "beautiful" brown suedette jacket she'd bought for £30.
"I used to always come here with my granddaughters, Poppy (21) and Tilly (16), who live in England, so I can't wait to tell them the good news about the store reopening," she said.
"It's great to see it back and even better to see Belfast getting back to normal."
Meanwhile, just down the street, workers were busy outside Primark, which is also gearing up to open its second Belfast store on April 16. An extension at the rear of Bank Buildings opened in November.
Tesco is also due to reopen its Metro store on Royal Avenue at the end of April.
The safety cordon in place since the Primark fire is expected to be reduced further in June to allow buses to flow freely again.