New Look closes CastleCourt store despite being in good financial health

The New Look in Belfast's CastleCourt, which has closed.
Emma Deighan

FASHION retailer New Look will close its CastleCourt store this weekend.

The closure will reduce the retailer's store count in the north to 26.

In 2018 the company said it would close 85 of its UK stores, making almost 1,000 redundancies. The move was part of a company voluntary agreement (CVA), a procedure that allows a company to settle debts.

The first New Look store to close here since that CVA was Forestside’s outlet in 2018.

The company then relocated its Fountain House site to Victoria Square. The Donegall Place store was then taken over by Primark and at the time the closure was believed to have seen the termination of 70 jobs.

The Victoria Square site opened in March 2020.

In its most recent financial report for the 52 weeks up to March 2021, New Look said it had completed its CVA and financial recapitalisation as of November 2020 “providing firm foundations for future growth”.

Its sales for the period were down however, by 40 per cent, which it attributed to the forced closure of stores during Covid lockdowns.

Its online sales growth grew over the period by 69 per cent. More positively, New Look’s statutory profit before tax was £108 million for the period, reflecting much better on 2020’s loss of £430.7m which also reflects the CVA.

New Look executive officer Nigel Oddy insists the company is in “good health”.

He said: “Looking back at the prior financial year, I was pleased we delivered a resilient performance, despite the challenges presented by Covid-19 and the restrictions that meant our entire store portfolio was open for only seven weeks in the full year.

“Last year’s results are clearly not reflective of the health of the business as it stands here today. We are in a fundamentally stronger position following the successful recapitalisation and CVA. We can now look to the future with confidence and leverage our brand position as a leading broad appeal fashion destination which has been loved by customers for over 50 years.”

He said the changes in the retail landscape would present New Look with “an excellent opportunity to capitalise on” due to its “combination of a cohesive omnichannel model” and stores.

CastleCourt is undergoing something of a transformation since the loss of its anchor tenant Debenhams in May last year.

It has begun to position itself at a multi-service site.

Omniplex Cinema Group will occupy part of the former Debenham’s unit which will be called ‘The Avenue’.

It will take up 30,000 sq ft while a family entertainment scheme will hold 50,000 sq ft space.

The remaining 40,000sq ft has been earmarked for further retail activity with details to be announced soon, according to CastleCourt.

A new flagship Starbucks is also due to occupy a substantial new site in the centre, with significant on-street presence.

CastleCourt declined to comment on New Look’s closure while New Look did not respond to a request for comment.

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