Irish department store Guineys to move into iconic BHS site
A WELL known Irish department store has been confirmed as the first tenant at the former BHS store in Belfast city centre.
The Irish News can reveal that retailer Guineys, which operates 10 stores across the Republic, is to make its first foray into the north by opening at Castle Place later this year.
After 50 years as a firm fixture at the heart of the city centre, BHS closed its doors on August 28, 2016, at a cost of 57 jobs. The prominent site has remained vacant since.
In June, plans were approved for the refurbishment and reconfiguration of the iconic building which housed BHS.
The work has involved the subdivision of the site into standalone units at Castle Place and Castle Lane – the former 21,679 sq ft in size and the latter, a larger 71,126 sq ft unit.
Guineys will move into the smaller premises after agreeing a lease with property agents Cushman & Wakefield, with the retailer securing access to the building earlier this month.
Following fit-out work and a six-figure investment Guineys is set to open in Belfast in late November, creating up to 20 new jobs.
Speaking to The Irish News, Guineys managing director Gretta Guiney said the company was excited about moving into the north.
"The size is perfect for us, it's a busy town and the location is great," she said.
"The footfall is great, especially where the shop is. You couldn't get a better location I don't think. It was a good opportunity for us so we took it. It's our first shop outside of southern Ireland and we're excited about moving into Belfast."
When the new Belfast store opens its doors later this year it will be the retailer's 12th in Ireland, with a new outlet in Dundalk set to open in the coming months.
Ms Guiney also revealed that the company could open further stores in the north as part of ongoing expansion plans in Ireland.
"It's (the Belfast store) testing the waters, but I would hope it will be the first of many," she added.
Earlier this year, The Irish News reported that pharmacy chain Boots could move into the larger retail unit at the former BHS site, relocating from its present city centre premises at Donegall Place.
A Boots spokesperson said last week there was nothing new to share in relation in the company's presence in Belfast but did not dismiss speculation of a possible move.
It is understood that the company would not be able to comment on any formal plans until an agreement was legally binding.
Founded in 1971, Guiney's discount department store specialises in homeware, menswear, womenswear and children's clothing. The retailer's 10 stores in the Republic are located in Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, Castlebar, Tralee, Cork, Clonmel, Mullingar and Kilkenny.
In November, Guiney's reported a bumper set of financial results, with pre-tax profits increasing to €2.45m. The retailer also grew sales by 10 per cent to €23.83m in the 12 months to the end of January 2017, stating that it is "benefiting from a general improvement in economic activity in the economy”.