Primark 'won't be housed in former BHS building'

A cordon still remains at the scene of the Primark fire in Belfast. Photo: Hugh Russell
Gareth McKeown

PRIMARK will not be moving into the former home of BHS in Belfast city centre, it can be revealed.

Speculation has been rife that the retailer could look to fill the larger of the two units created at Castle Place at Castle Lane following the shocking blaze at its Castle Street premises last week.

Earlier this month the Irish News revealed that the smaller 21,679 sq ft retail unit at Castle Place is to be filled by Irish department store Guineys, who are set to open in late November following a six-figure investment.

The future of the larger 71,126 sq ft premises on Castle Lane has been the subject of debate, and following the fire last week at the Primark store on Castle Street it has been suggested, given its size, as a possible an option for relocation for the retailer, if only in the short-term.

But the Irish News can reveal that Primark is not involved in any deal to secure the site.

A source close to negotiations for the letting of the prime city centre property said a deal to lease the premises is "at an advanced stage" after strong interest and confirmed Primark is not involved, but rather discussions are taking place with another party.

After 50 years as a firm fixture at the heart of the city centre, BHS closed its doors in August 2016 at a cost of 57 jobs and the prominent site has remained vacant since.

In June plans were approved for the refurbishment and reconfiguration of the iconic building which housed BHS.

Meanwhile the 400-plus staff roll at Primark are still in the dark as to whether they will be paid this week.

In the immediate aftermath of the inferno, management at the Irish-owned retailer said it was only guaranteeing workers their salaries until the end of last week, with further discussions planned for later.

Yesterday a spokesman for the Usdaw union, which represents many of the workers, would only say that "discussions are ongoing with the company".

More than a dozen businesses - including Tesco Metro, Zara, McDonald's and Skechers - are still unable to open as engineers continue structural assessments on the 250-year-old building.

Many of those firms will eventually have to dump goods and products worth many millions of pounds, and currently insurance assessors have begun to process dozens of commercial and personal claims.

One business owner, Arthur McAnerney of City Picnic in Castle Street, said he was concerned over the futures of his 18 members of staff given that he is likely to be shut for some time and is having to pay monthly salaries of £15,000 with no money coming in.

"We hope that with the insurance we'll be able to finance the wages, but there's going to be a lot of uninsurable costs and we're not sure if we will be able to survive," he said.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: