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Screwfix understood to be considering more Northern Ireland stores

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The UK's biggest tools and hardware company Screwfix could be set to expand in Northern Ireland as it eyes up around a dozen new locations across the region.

And according to the latest Lisney Northern Ireland Commercial Property Report, the firm has targeted a total of 18 locations.

Screwfix opened up four stores in January last year, setting up shop in Belfast, Ballymena, Bangor and Newtownabbey - creating 50 jobs.

It's not clear whether the 18 potential locations include those already up and running.

Screwfix operates more than 300 outlets across the UK.

Last night a spokesman for the Somerset-based company was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, big name businesses opening up in Belfast helped buoy Northern Ireland's commercial property market last year.

That included US law firm Baker & McKenzie, which announced 250 new jobs in September, and Concentrix - the call centre group which expanded its workforce by 1,000.

And retail vacancy rates in towns and cities across Northern Ireland also dropped in 2014 - down to 17.7%, according to the Lisney Northern Ireland Commercial Property Report.

But that figure is still way off the UK average - with just one in 10 sitting empty last year.

And the level of investment in properties in 2014 was five times the size of that in 2012 - rising to £400m.

According to Declan Flynn, managing director of Lisney, there is increased optimism in the commercial property market in Northern Ireland.

He said the "outlook for 2015 across all sectors remains strong. This year's findings highlight a return of confidence across all sectors, with retail vacancy rates falling, investments in 2014 five times the transaction values of 2012 and strong demand for office accommodation likely to witness a rents rise in 2015," he said.

"The long-awaited rates revaluation will see retail vacancies drop further and the availability of new finance and in many cases new capital will see construction rise significantly."

But Northern Ireland is still suffering from a lack of prime office space, despite witnessing a small rise last year.

That's prompted fears it could have a negative impact on the number of companies wishing to set up shop in Northern Ireland.

Source : John Mulgrew - Belfast Telegraph

23 January 2015

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