JCRA approves sale of store


The £26 million sale of the site and the business to Ulster Stores Ltd, a family-owned Northern Irish firm based in Coleraine, was agreed several weeks ago but could not be finalised without JCRA approval.

The new owners already have three department stores: Moores of Coleraine, the Whitehouse Portrush and Clares in Llandudno, North Wales.

They also own the Captain Cook’s chain of specialist cookshops in Northern Ireland.

The de Gruchy family sold the store to the Merchant Retail Group in 1999 and over the past six years they have spent around £6 million on improvements.

But a little over 15 months ago Merchant was bought out by the Hong Kong-based AS Watson Group, owners of the UK chain Superdrug, primarily for its perfume outlet.

But they put the business up for sale when they decided it wasn’t part of their long-term strategy.

During the 12 months it was on the market there was considerable interest from UK-based department store operators, reported Simon Buckley of agents Buckley & Co who acted for Watsons.

‘But Ulster Stores showed more desire and see this as a progressive step for their business,’ he said.


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