Two major store developments planned by Tesco in the province have been pulled as part of a major cost-cutting exercise annouced by the firm.
The centres at Armagh and Carryduff are among 49 planned stores across the UK which will not now go-ahead as the beleaguered company attempts to rebuild its finances.
Despite reasonable results over the Christmas trading period, the firm said it is also to close 43 unprofitable stores across the UK, but has not yet revealed where those stores are or how many jobs may be affected.
The decision follows Tesco’s well-publicised difficulties following revelations later last year that it had overstated profits by more than £250m.
Chief executive Dave Lewis said it was with a “heavy heart” that he was announcing the end of plans for the local stores.
“I know that this news will be a real disappointment to many people in Northern Ireland and we’re extremely grateful for the support we’ve received for our plans.
“I am very aware of the importance of these sites and I am determined that we will work closely with the respective councils to find the right solutions for both Armagh and Carryduff.”
The news of the Armagh development was greeted with disappointment by Newry & Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin who said the firm had shown great commitment to the city.
“Therefore, it is such a great pity that they have now decided to withdraw this new store,” he said.
However, Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the independent retail lobby group NIIRTA said both areas may well benefit from the decision.
“Northern Ireland passed the multiple supermarket saturation point a number of years ago and the market was not simply there to sustain the sheer volume of new stores,” he said.
“The retail market is undergoing the biggest change in its history and the key challenge for independent and multiple retailers is to show innovation and embrace that change.”