Northern Ireland news

Sainsbury's 'committed to customers in north' despite confirming plan to close Craigavon store

The Sainsbury's store at Craigavon's Rushmere Shopping Centre, which will close early next year. Image: Google

SAINSBURY’S has said it remains committed to operating in Northern Ireland under the post-Brexit protocol despite confirming plans to close its supermarket at Craigavon’s Rushmere shopping centre in early 2022.

The Unite union said the move, which will also see the retailer’s fuel station shut, will put around 109 jobs at risk.

Sainsbury’s, which has maintained a presence in Craigavon since 1998, said it will seek to redeploy the staff to other stores.

It’s understood employees learned of the decision yesterday.

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said the decision had not been taken lightly. She said it was “based on a range of factors”, but declined to elaborate.

Unite said the grocery chain had cited ‘changing demographics’ when informing staff.

But the union has expressed its fears that the closure could be a symptom of the challenging trading conditions for some retailers under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Sainsbury’s has been extremely vocal in recent months highlighting the impact of Brexit on reduced choice of products on shelves here in Northern Ireland,” said the union’s regional officer, Taryn Trainor.

“They have also had to use competitors to supply stores in Northern Ireland. These factors would obviously impact profits.”

A grace period for supermarket goods has been in place since January, allowing food to move from Britain to Northern Ireland with reduced paperwork.

But supermarkets without fulfilment centres in the north have still struggled, and in January, Sainsbury’s turned to the Mallusk-based the Henderson Group to help stock its shelves.

Henderson, which supplies around 500 Spar, Vivo and Eurospar stores in the north, recently completed a new 130,000 sq ft warehouse for ambient and frozen goods.

A spokesperson for the supermarket chain said Sainsbury’s remained committed to serving its customers in Northern Ireland.

“We have updated colleagues on the difficult decision to close our Craigavon store and petrol filling station in early next year.

“We understand this will be an unsettling time for those affected and we are doing everything we can to find alternative roles within Sainsbury’s.

“Customers can continue to shop with us online and at our stores in the surrounding area, including at our Dungannon, Armagh and Lisburn or supermarkets.”

Sainsbury’s has operated in Northern Ireland since December 1996. It currently has 13 stores here and also owns the Argos chain.

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