Could major retail chains be about to set up shop in Banbridge town centre?

With more than 1,600 outlets, Greggs is the largest bakery chain in the UK. The company says it is seeking to open more stores in Northern Ireland.
With more than 1,600 outlets, Greggs is the largest bakery chain in the UK. The company says it is seeking to open more stores in Northern Ireland.

Two major national retail chains have declined to comment on speculation that they could be planning to open new stores in Banbridge.

Rumours have been circulating for some time that Marks and Spencer could be progressing plans to open one of its Simply Food stores at the former SuperValu site on Newry Street. And now there have been suggestions that bakery chain Greggs might have set its sights on the old Xtra-vision unit in the town, also on Newry Street.

Marks and Spencer is currently undertaking a review of its business across the UK as it switches its retail focus from clothing to food.

That could see some existing clothing stores close, or being converted into Simply Food outlets.

Asked about the future of the M&S Outlet store at The Outlet retail park, a spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on individual stores, but stressed that the company’s “entire estate will be reviewed.”

Marks and Spencer is expected to open around 200 new food only stores as part of its shift away from fashion sales, and Chief Executive Steve Rowe said the company will have more stores overall and “more towns will have an M&S”.

That comment, made during an interview with the BBC, has reignited rumours that M&S might be considering setting up a new store in Banbridge town centre.

Asked if the company has any plans to open a Simply Food store at Newry Street, a spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said the company “does not comment on rumour or speculation.”

Michael Donaghy, Chairman of Banbridge Chamber of Trade, believes the disused shop unit has been sold, but isn’t aware who has bought it.

“At the minute it’s all just rumour and speculation,” he said.

“It would be great to see Marks and Spencer coming to the town, but to be honest I would be very surprised if that was to happen at the minute.

“Obviously we would welcome anyone taking it (the former supermarket site) as no one wants to see empty units in the town.”

Asked if Greggs is planning to set up shop on Newry Street, a spokesperson for the UK’s largest bakery chain declined to comment on a potential move into Banbridge other than to say: “We are continuing to look for further opportunities to open more stores in Northern Ireland and will share more information as and when we can.”