Matalan confirms it will reopen five stores in Northern Ireland

Matalan's store in Boucher Crescent, Belfast. Image: Google
Ryan McAleer

FASHION and homeware retailer Matalan has confirmed it has started to unfurlough some of its staff this week to prepare to reopen in the north.

It’s understood that the retail chain, which has six outlets in Northern Ireland, has been given the go-ahead to reopen its homeware sections.

Homeware was included in the list of businesses permitted to remain open under the legal restrictions which came into law in Northern Ireland on March 28.

The regulations in England were subsequently updated on May 1 to include homeware as an essential business, prompting Matalan to begin a phased reopening of its English outlets.

The company initially furloughed 289 staff in the north, but it has now confirmed that it will reopen the homeware sections in five stores based in out of town retail parks. Its click and collect service will also be available.

Matalan’s sixth store in the CastleCourt shopping centre in Belfast will remain closed.

The Irish News understands that staff at its Boucher Crescent outlet in south Belfast have been told that the store will be open by Saturday.

In a statement, Matalan said a trial reopening of a select number of stores in England had been a success.

“Following this rigorous in-store testing and consultation, we are now preparing to reopen a number of our Northern Ireland stores and have started to unfurlough some of our staff to assist with the preparations.

“Our new enhanced health and safety measures will ensure that every Matalan store which reopens will be fully compliant with social distancing rules, with employees trained appropriately and provided with full PPE.

“We are confident that these safety measures are fully compliant with the guidance provided by the Northern Ireland Executive, UK Government and Department of Health.”

Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC), Aodhán Connolly welcomed the move: “It is good to see that retail is starting to reopen when safe to do so, and following the guidelines approved by the NIRC and USDAW the union,” he said.

“Safety is the fundamental concern for all retailers, and they have been working hard to implement the necessary measures to operate safely over the past weeks.”

The Executive is expected to announce today whether the north can progress to the next stage of its plan to reopen the economy.

Step two of Stormont’s plan would allow non-food retail shops to reopen with restrictions. Contact retail businesses, including hair salons and gyms, would remain closed until stage four.

Hospitality businesses will have to stay closed until stage five.

Non-essential retailers in England have been given the go ahead to reopen from June 15, with the Republic aiming for June 29.

Mr Connolly added: “We hope soon that a decision will be made by the Executive that allows other retailers to reopen safely.

“They can they begin communicating their plans with their workforces and customers. The industry stands ready to play its part in getting the economy moving again.”

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