Crowds expected as Primark store reopens in Belfast city centre
PRIMARK will reopen its doors in Belfast today to the relief of thousands of city centre shoppers who have been without the fashion chain staple for 101 days.
More than three months after the brand's flagship Bank Buildings store Royal Avenue was gutted in a major blaze, the store will open its new extension at the site, which survived the fire.
Shoppers and staff were left in shock when the store was gutted in August leaving just a shell of the main building.
Since the blaze customers - and city centre traders - have been anxious for the store to reopen, particuarly in the run-up to Christmas.
Now, with a massive 26,700sq ft due to open at 9am crowds of shoppers are expected to descend on the store - with long queues likely to form.
Every department will be represented in the new store, which will also have 31 fitting rooms and two customer lifts.
The opening comes just days after a new temporary walkway was opened to allow shoppers a direct route through the city centre for the first time since the fire.
A safety cordon had been in place since the blaze which meant that 14 other businesses were unable to open.
While some of those stores have now relocated, others have reopened in recent days.
With top cut-price clothing on offer and a multitude of bargains likely to promoted across the store, the opening of Primark today is likely bring a massive influx of shoppers and provide a major boost to the city with just over two weeks until Christmas.
It is believed the store will have crowd controls measures in place and customers will only be able to gain access to the store via Castle Street.
On social media last night, fans of the store posted about their excitement at the reopening.
While one fan spoke of the "need to get down early" another said: "We love you primark yayyy lol can't bloody wait".
Writing underneath a photo of the new extension at Commonwealth House, one shopper wrote: "Happiness in one photo can’t wait to get new jammies" while another added: "I am beyond delighted".
However, one shopper urged caution: "It will be like gunfight at the OK corral".
Aodhán Connolly, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director, said the opening of the store would bring "new life to the city".
"This has been a great week for retail in Belfast," he said.
"Firstly, we had the reopening of the city centre’s main thoroughfare which allowed some shops to open and allowed shoppers to easily cross the city centre and now we have a huge footfall draw of Primark’s store opening which will hopefully bring new life to what is being called the cordon quarter.
"This store opening is a testament to the commitment of Primark to Belfast and could not come soon enough. With less than 20 shopping days left until Christmas we really need to see shoppers on our streets making the most of the great offers to be had".
Meanwhile a spokeswoman for the fire service last night said the cause of the fire at Bank Buildings was "still under investigation".