Primark's plans to expand Belfast store hit as fire rages through building
Late last week, the big news about Primark’s store in Belfast city centre was that its £30 million renovation project to revamp it and add an extra 30,000 square feet of retail of space was close to completion. But by Tuesday, the store was on fire, the area around it had been evacuated and a police officer said the historic building was “at risk of imminent collapse”.
The fire had spread across much of the store to ground level and ceilings had given way as 100 firefighters worked to put out the blaze. The building, which was open when he fire started, had been safely evacuated.
The Irish retail giant had earlier said the store’s £30 million expansion would create more than 100 new jobs in the city centre, including roles such as floor staff, weekend supervisors and retail assistants.
In addition to expanding the store, Primark was giving the location its latest shop fit with more fitting rooms and cash desks, customer recharge seating areas and access to free Wi-Fi for all its shoppers.
The retailer was also planning to relocate an existing store outside Belfast in the Abbey Centre retail park in Newtownabbey to bigger premises. The move would expand the brand’s trading space at the centre by 75%, taking the total space to 26,700 square feet.
But the firm’s Northern Ireland strategy could now be rethought as its regional flagship could be out of action for some time.
Primark had taken over the space in 1979. It had been damaged by bombs during 1975 but the retailer restored it to its impressive look of the early 20th century.
The fire will be a major blow to the firm that has been strategically adding to the space available at its top stores.
The retailer has been spending heavily on growing its store footprint despite headwinds in the UK retail market and is very focused on mega-sized stores. This summer, the company opened a 70,000-square-foot store in the new Westfield London extension, and the brand will open its largest ever store in Birmingham in December.
Located at Birmingham Pavilions, the world’s largest Primark shop will showcase five floors of fashion spread across 160,000 square feet of space.
Additional reporting by Sandra Halliday
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