Sports Di­rect to launch new Belfast store at Connswa­ter re­tail com­plex

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY EMMA DEIGHAN

SPORTS Di­rect will open a new North­ern Ire­land store in the Connswa­ter Shop­ping Cen­tre and Re­tail Park ahead of Christ­mas, it was an­nounced to­day

The own­ers of the re­tail com­plex, Al­fred Street Prop­er­ties Ltd, said the sports chain will launch a 4,500 sq ft unit at the com­plex on De­cem­ber 12.

It’s another new ar­rival at the com­plex and fol­lows the open­ings of Brand Max and Savers Health and Beauty. A Tim Hor­ton’s driv­ethru is also to open.

Sports Di­rect is led by Mike Ash­ley who re­cently bought House of Fraser and yes­ter­day called on the Gov­ern­ment to tax on­line re­tail­ers in a bid to save the high street.

Laura Mccarthy, prop­erty as­set man­ager of Al­fred Street Prop- er­ties Ltd, said: “This year has been ex­cep­tional for Connswa­ter Shop­ping Cen­tre and Re­tail Park and we are de­lighted to fin­ish on a high with the ar­rival of Sports Di­rect.

Since the open­ing of The Range at the end of last year there has been a sub­stan­tial in­crease in foot­fall by 50% and we have con­tin­ued to build on that suc­cess­ful mo­men­tum through­out 2018.

“We are look­ing ahead to next year with op­ti­mism and we con­tinue to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove and di­ver­sify our of­fer­ing.”

Mr Ash­ley bought em­bat­tled House of Fraser in Au­gust and has an­nounced some clo­sures of stores in Great Bri­tain.

But it’s un­der­stood the Belfast store is to re­main open af­ter Vic­to­ria Square owner Com­merz Real told the Belfast Tele­graph that there had been no change in its ex­ist­ing ar­range­ment in Vic­to­ria Square.

In Au­gust, Com­merz Real told the Belfast Tele­graph: “We have seen House of Fraser per­form­ing very well in Vic­to­ria Square and would like to con­tinue this co-op­er­a­tion.”

HIGH street ty­coon Mike Ash­ley has called for a new tax on on­line re­tail­ers as part of a rad­i­cal change he says is needed to save the high street.

Ap­pear­ing be­fore MPS, the Sports Di­rect founder said any re­tailer that makes more than 20% of its sales on­line should be sub­ject to an ad­di­tional tax.

He said this would en­cour­age busi­nesses like Sports Di­rect to open more stores rather than in­creas­ingly shift­ing to dig­i­tal sales chan­nels.

“It’s not House of Fraser’s fault, it’s not Marks & Spencer’s fault, it’s not Deben­hams fault the high street is dy­ing,” Mr Ash­ley said.

“The in­ter­net is killing the high street.”

The busi­ness­man, who has ex­panded his high street em­pire this year with the ac­qui­si­tions of House of Fraser and Evans Cy­cles, warned most high streets will not sur­vive un­til 2030.

He said: “I want to make it crys­tal clear: the main­stream high street as we think about it to­day — not the Ox­ford Streets and the West­fields — are al­ready dead. They can’t sur­vive.”

He later said: “Out­side of Lon­don it’s go­ing to be a ghost town.”

Mr Ash­ley also sug­gested lo­cal gov­ern­ment should of­fer free park­ing in town cen­tres and re­form busi­ness rates.

Quizzed by mem­bers of the Hous­ing and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Se­lect Com­mit­tee on the fu­ture of House of Fraser, Mr Ash­ley said no­body would be able to keep all 59 of the depart­ment store’s branches open “ex­cept God”.

He also hinted a long-sug­gested tie-up be­tween Deben­hams and House of Fraser could still be on the cards.

“I told them to work to­gether,” he said. “They should work to­gether.”

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