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Tesco's move to close city centre store a devastating blow for workers: McCusker

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Tesco Metro on Royal Avenue, which will close within the next 12 months. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Tesco Metro on Royal Avenue, which will close within the next 12 months. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Warning: Paul McCusker

Warning: Paul McCusker

Tesco Metro on Royal Avenue, which will close within the next 12 months. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Belfast's Deputy Lord Mayor has described the closure of Tesco's city centre Metro store as devastating.

The supermarket giant announced at the weekend that it had taken the "difficult decision" to shut the Royal Avenue branch.

It said the move was not "related specifically" to the Primark fire in August 2018. The store had reopened in May 2019, almost nine months after closing because of the devastating blaze.

The BBC reported that Tesco was paying rent of about £1m a year on the store. The lease is due to expire next year.

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We have taken the difficult decision to close our Belfast Metro store in the next year as our lease comes to an end.

"We will continue to serve customers from our nine other stores in Belfast and we are also planning to open a new Express store in the city centre.

"Our priority now is to support our colleagues. We will work with those who wish to find an alternative role in one of our other Belfast stores.

"We continue to invest in Northern Ireland, with over 9,000 colleagues in 56 stores."

The store is expected to remain open for the next six months and no other branches are affected.

SDLP deputy mayor of Belfast Paul McCusker said: "This is devastating news for the workers at Tesco and it is vital their jobs are maintained in other stores.

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Warning: Paul McCusker

Warning: Paul McCusker

Warning: Paul McCusker

"Job losses are different at any time, but particularly when we already face such a challenging economic context with the pandemic.

"I will be seeking to engage with Tesco management locally to ensure that jobs are maintained in other stores."

Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said it "should act as a spur to the NI Executive to take the need to rejuvenate city and town centres more seriously".

The Tesco announcement came 10 days after Eason announced its Northern Ireland stores would not reopen, including its flagship outlet in Belfast city centre.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, told Sunday Life the Tesco development showed even the biggest retailers in the country were feeling the effects of the coronavirus lockdown.

"This is especially sad news for the people who work in the store and we hope that they can be redeployed," he said.

"It does show that even the biggest of retailers are feeling the pinch of the accelerated pace of change in the retail industry, which has been compounded by the Covid-19 situation.

"City centre stores are particularly feeling the pressure due to their high fixed costs such as business rates, as well as the investment made to ensure the safety of colleagues and customers during the pandemic."

The Tesco Metro store opened in 1996 and is one of 10 Tesco locations in Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph