Toy retailer The Entertainer sets up shop in Northern Ireland
BRITAIN'S largest independent toy retailer is to open its first outlet in Northern Ireland later this year.
The Entertainer already operates more than 100 stores across Britain but this will be its first shop anywhere in Ireland.
A spokesman for the chain confirmed to the Irish News it would come to the north "later this year".
The arrival is a further boost to Northern Ireland's retail sector which is currently enjoying a period of renaissance.
It is believed the company is looking at locations around Belfast city centre and shopping centres, possinly including Abbey Centre in Newtownabbey and Rushmere shopping centre in Craigavon.
And the firm is understood to consider the new store the first of as many as five across the north over the coming years - generating around 50 jobs in the process.
The company was founded by Gary and Catherine Grant 35 years ago and now employs around 1,000 people in places as far flung as Azerbaijan and Pakistan.
Last year the company announced a record set of financials, recording its sixth consecutive year of growth.
Pre-tax profits reached £7.6 million - an increase of 27 per cent on 2014's figure.
The Entertainer has grown rapidly over the past decade, almost quadrupling its network of stores over that period.
The chain was started when Mr Grant bought a local toy shop in Amersham in Buckinghamshire in 1981.
It now has 116 stores, with the majority of them in the midlands and southern England.
The chain is operated under a "Christian ethos" which means it does not open on Sundays nor does it sell Halloween-related goods or any Harry Potter merchandise.
The ethos also means the firm gives away much of its profits, with the most recent accounts detailing £845,000 worth of donations to charities.
Its workplace giving scheme is also used by 44 per cent of employees who give monthly to charities - the highest level in the UK.
The firm employs more than 900 people across its stores but has a further 100 based at its head office in Amersham.
At Christmas the payroll increases to more than 1,000, with an additional 700 temporary staff recruited over the festive period.