Toals gambles on growth with mega-shop opening

BELFAST-HEADQUARTERED betting firm Toals has opened the biggest bookies shop anywhere in Britain and Ireland - just in time for the off at Cheltenham this lunchtime.

The company, which can trace its roots back to 1927, acquired the former Passport Office on High Street six years ago and has completed its conversion into a 7,600 sq ft state-of-the-art shop complete with banks of high definition, multi-view television systems and touch screen customer information terminals, combined with soft seating and tea/coffee areas.

It takes the Toals shops portfolio in the north to 39, including five in Belfast and the company's staffing levels have now eclipsed 250. "The demand is there, and this really is something quite unique on these islands," owner Gary Toal said. "The future for retail bookmaking really is in this type of mega-sized shop, where we can combine the traditional with the innovative and offer punters the best possible levels of customer service and comfort." Gary's grandfather Tommy Toal started the chain nearly 90 years ago and grew it to five shops. But after the Second World War it all but disappeared off the high street. "When I took over we had just two small shops but we've grown the business organically and through acquisition and believe we now have one of the most modern bookmaking chains anywhere on these islands," Gary said.

Aside from its 39 retail outlets, Toals operates an online service from its own call centre based at a refurbished head office above the High Street shop.

"The future is bright for the bookmaking sector, which has come a long way from cramped smoky shops tucked away down entries. "We are determined to be the main player in Northern Ireland, and this new shop puts us on a whole new footing," he said.


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