O'Neills to open its first Belfast city centre store creating 25 jobs

The Royal Avenue unit at CastleCourt soon to house a new O'Neills sportswear outlet. Picture by Hugh Russell
Ryan McAleer

CO TYRONE sportswear manufacturer O’Neills is to open its first store in Belfast city centre, with the creation of 25 jobs.

The Strabane-based company, whose brand is synonymous with the GAA, is set to take over the former Virgin Megastore unit on Royal Avenue.

Including its Strabane factory store, it will bring the number of O’Neill’s retail stores to nine.

The sportswear company, which dates back to 1918, currently operates from the Kennedy Centre in west Belfast.

It is now the largest sportswear manufacturing company on the island of Ireland, supplying jerseys and sports gear for the vast majority of GAA county and club teams.

It also operates stores in Derry, Dublin, Newry, Craigavon, Magherafelt and Enniskillen.

The planned move onto Royal Avenue represents its first in the centre of Belfast.

The large unit on the corner of the CastleCourt shopping centre has been vacant since the closure of Simply Be/Jacamo in August 2018.

The fashion retailer’s Belfast store, which opened in 2014, was among 200 it shut across the UK. The company now operates solely online.

The large retail space was associated with Richard Branson’s entertainment chain Virgin Megastores for almost two decades.

Opening in the early 1990s, the store became a mecca for music and film fans in Belfast until 2007, when a management buy-out of the Virgin chain resulted in a rebrand as Zavvi.

The Zavvi store remained in the unit until it finally closed in January 2009.

Fashion retailer Republic later occupied the unit before Simply Be/Jacomo moved in during 2014.

The addition of O’Neills would represent a much-needed boost for Royal Avenue, which is slowly recovering from the impact following the fire in Primark’s Bank Building’s store in 2018.

Last year O’Neills said the addition of new stores in Derry and Craigavon had helped boost its sales by eight per cent.

The latest set of published accounts, which cover the 12 months to December 31 2018, show the company finished that year with an operating profit of £1.1m, adding 73 staff.

O’Neills workforce stood at 632 during 2018.

The company has now launched the recruitment drive for 25 people to fill vacancies in the new Belfast store.

In May 2019, O’Neills acquired Smyth & Gibson, the last remaining shirt-making factory in Derry. The Tyrone firm took on 20 workers who were facing redundancy, launching a new range of Derry Girl themed jerseys, which are now being manufactured in the Waterside factory.

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