Blog : Business



Northern Ireland’s US Travel Specialist, American Holidays opens the doors on its brand-new premises in Belfast City Centre, following a significant investment and a renewed strategy to grow its operations locally.

Whilst remaining in Lombard Street, American Holidays will now occupy the old Ulster Bank site that has lay vacant for several years. This new space will allow for the expansion of its retail shop and call centre for its trade partners, with a larger dedicated Belfast team in place to answer every call.

The new retail shop will be a relaxed and comfortable environment for both staff and customers. Planning a holiday to the USA can be daunting at times; therefore it is reassuring to speak directly with a specialist to receive expert advice – something American Holidays continues to see a demand for from customers.

Speaking on the continued success of American Holidays, Karen Sheals Hoy, Manager says: “We pride ourselves in offering a seamless and dedicated customer journey delivered through exceptional service. It is this passion shown by the team that resonates with our customers and gives them confidence in the services we offer. Today American Holidays has over 50 staff based in Belfast, Dublin and Leeds and we are proud to be part of the world’s largest collection of specialist travel brands.

“American Holidays has developed longstanding relationships across the industry, and we continue to forge new associations. American Holidays prides itself in having a dedicated team in place to negotiate and secure the best prices for our customers, so we can remain competitive in the marketplace.”

Starting as an independently owned company in Lombard Street 27 years ago, the business has gone from strength to strength. American Holidays opened its Belfast branch in 1991 and this new level of investment into the branch signals confidence in the local market and the continued demand for this specialist travel offering.

The larger premises will now allow for a new dedicated training room to be housed onsite, enabling American Holidays to host regular training sessions for their staff and the Northern Ireland Travel Trade with partnered airlines, hotels, destination team specialists and suppliers.

Karen says: “As specialists in our field we can share the expertise we have at our fingertips with those who support us and to better develop everyone’s knowledge, especially of the lesser known areas of the USA and Canada”.

Astrid Bell, Cruise Product Manager, Belfast and Dublin adds: “American Holidays’ biggest strength is our team. We know North America inside and out, upside and down and have a great heritage as a specialist North American Tour Operator. We go the extra mile and know that it’s often the little things that make a big difference. Our sales staff have collectively visited almost every state, so we have the USA and Canada covered.

“We understand the need to invest in education and training for our staff and work very closely with training partners to develop training programmes for all.”

American Holidays is part of Travelopia, the world’s largest collection of Specialist Travel Brands. It is always working to develop and grow new products to the USA & Canada – next year will be no different. 2020 will see a new 148-page North America brochure and a 100-page Escorted Touring brochure including Cruise and Canada. The new brochures will offer some new exciting experiences while also offering some old favourites. The new brochures will hit the shelves November 2019.

American Holidays is summed up in its tagline, Possibilities Unlimited!




Popular German fashion brand Gerry Weber announced last month it will close its UK store estate by October 2019, but have chosen to award its sole franchise in the UK and Ireland to local family business Jonzara.

Last year, Jonzara took over the Gerry Weber store in Newtownards and this announcement means it will continue to offer the popular brand to shoppers across the UK & Ireland. Since then the team has worked hard to grow demand for the Gerry Weber range via its online platform and store provision.

The independent retailer, which began trading in 2008, specialises in contemporary women’s clothing and remains steadfast despite the ongoing high street closures. Along with its Gerry Weber store, Jonzara has two stores in Newtownards and Lisburn. The business invested £150,000 in its 3300sq.ft Lisburn premises in 2017 with further development plans in the pipeline. It currently employs 26 local people across all three stores, with more recruitment underway.

Reflecting on Gerry Weber’s decision to cement its franchise contract with Jonzara, Director Jonathan McCann says:

“This is fantastic news and recognition of our proactive approach to growing Gerry Weber’s loyal customer base. Growth in store and online is equally matched. Now that we are going to be the sole Gerry Weber store in the UK and Ireland, this makes our offering even more exclusive for our customers.

“By showcasing a variety of designer brands in a range of sizes to suit any occasion and combining this with exceptional service, we have had the opportunity to grow.”

Director Sarah McCann adds: “We have seen a lot of additional growth online, not just for the Gerry Weber range. Our website exports Jonzara brands to over 50 countries worldwide including USA, Canada and Australia. The great news for our customers is that our online expansion has enabled us to offer an ever-increasing range of products both instore and online.”

Jonzara boasts an impressive array of designer labels and a selection of occasion wear and mother of the bride outfits appealing to the increase in demand for more formal attire as well as smart workwear.



BNI® Northern Ireland, has expanded its referral marketing network with the launch of a new Belfast City Centre based Chapter – Cathedral. With five chapters across the province this latest addition brings its current membership base up to over 130 local business representatives, with the new chapter aiming to generate annually over £3million pounds worth of business.

Established over 30 years, BNI® is the world’s leading referral organisation with over 250,000 members in over 70 countries worldwide. It works by organising weekly referral meetings for groups of businesses. Groups, known as chapters, use their combined network of contacts to find business opportunities and referrals for one another, to a specific brief that members outline at every meeting.

This new chapter signals a change in the format of the meetings, starting at 10am rather than 7am. The Cathedral Chapter was specify launched with a new start time to cater for businesspeople keen to be part of BNI®, but who are unable to commit to early breakfast hour meetings that are the norm in other groups.

Speaking on this significant launch BNI Northern Ireland Director, Andrew Dobbin said: “This is a fantastic achievement and testament to the growing popularity of BNI as an effective way to grow your business network. Our members are business professionals who help each other grow their businesses through their commitment to our principal core value, Givers Gain®.

“Each week, in thousands of communities across the globe, members meet with other trusted business leaders to build and nurture lasting relationships and pass qualified business referrals.  Membership in BNI® offers access to business training, peer learning and opportunities to network and do business with hundreds of thousands of BNI® members around the world.

“Last year, BNI® members in this area generated over £3.3 million worth of business for each other. Each chapter has a personality of its own and finding where you fit best helps you to get connected.”

The Cathedral Chapter’s leadership team is headed up by Aaron Skinner, B4B group; Peter Bond, PMB Accountants and Casey Graham, Miskimmin Wealth.

BNI® Cathedral Chapter Director, Aaron Skinner adds: “I am thrilled to be at the helm of this new Chapter and format. As a start-up group, we have a whole load of popular slots open which is an exciting offering. We would welcome anyone who is either just interested in BNI® or who has been unable previously to join due to the early hours, or because their slot is filled in other groups, to get in touch and come along as a visitor.”



2019 is proving once again to be a strong year for moviegoers with Omniplex Cinemas reporting that on average every person on the island of Ireland will visit the cinema 3.8 times per year*. This makes Ireland the highest cinema-going nation in Europe for four years running.

Omniplex Cinemas, one of Ireland’s largest cinema chains, has been leading the charge in making cinema more accessible, memorable and interactive. Currently with 15 cinemas located across the province to date which including 6 OmniplexMAXX screens & 13 OmniplexRecline screens.

Over the past 10 years, an average of 702 movies are released per year, with the most popular genre in Ireland being action movies. This has been reflected by the huge swell in numbers following the release of Avenger’s Endgame which has grossed to date £6.4M at the box office**. Other popular genres in Ireland are comedy and animation.

However, Irish cinema-goers have a diverse taste, with a strong affinity towards musicals & music based movies. In 2018, Ireland was the only country in Europe to have two music-based films in their top two movie slots at the end of the year – Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! and A Star is Born***.

Speaking on the demand of cinema across the Island of Ireland, Paul John Anderson, Director of Omniplex Group (NI) says: “I am delighted to see the continued growth and demand for cinema across Ireland. There is still a lot of nostalgia associated with going out to the cinema, grabbing your popcorn, socialising with friends and being fully absorbed by a narrative, away from the distractions of everyday life.”

Recognising this steady evolution of cinema, Ominplex Cinemas is now introducing its MyOmniPass – a monthly subscription scheme allowing customers to ‘See It All’. The monthly subscription includes a range of benefits including one ticket to every standard movie, 10% off your cinema treats, 10% off extra tickets online for your friends, free upgrades of MyOmniPass tickets to MAXX & Recline show, and exclusive screenings just for its members.

Commenting on this new subscription service, Paul explains: “A lot of customers have asked about a subscription service at Omniplex, and it’s taken us a little while to find the best solution. Two key elements of our service is that it’s all based on e-cards so once you have a smartphone you always have access to your card. And secondly, we’ve based the service on getting one ticket to every standard movie we’re showing, with an average of 702 movies released per year over the past 10 years we really want to give our customers a chance to see it all.

“2019 has already been a massive year for cinema and the upcoming releases of major films like Spider-Man far From Home, IT: Chapter 2 and Star Wars is set to continue this trend, making our MyOmnipass the perfect option for avid moviegoers.”

For more information on MyOmniPass and to register visit:



An impressive 380% growth, new territories acquired and the creation of over 20 jobs marks an incredible 10 years for property expert Michael Chandler and wife Laura.

The last decade has been an unpredictable one for the Northern Irish property market. Prices have fluctuated, new trends introduced, and many areas across the province have experienced major rejuvenation.

During all this, Michael Chandler has worked hard to establish himself and the agency as one of Northern Ireland’s most well-respected and forward-thinking property agents challenging the perceived model of estate agency. This has resulted in achieving an impressive 380% client base growth, expansion into new territories, East Belfast, South Belfast and all over County Down; plus, the introduction of a mortgage and insurance division.

Identifying an opportunity for growth during the worst of the economic downturn, when property values fell by as much as 40%, Michael and his team helped to steer vendors and landlords through the storm; as well as advancing the business.

Now with the property market making a recovery to pre-2007 levels, Northern Ireland has demonstrated remarkable resilience and has been reported as the ‘best performing’ region in the UK. Michael Chandler Estate Agents based on the Ormeau Road, has been at the forefront of this recovery.

Managing Director, Michael Chandler, says his company’s approach to estate agency “very proactive” and has emphasised a change in mood from the dour predictions of ten years ago. He said: “When I launched Michael Chandler Estate Agents a decade ago, I had two young children with two more to come. I wanted to ensure I had a well-respected and trusted business to ensure their future was bright as possible, and by setting out to improve the opinion people have of Estate Agents seemed like the perfect place to start.

“We have come a long way since then, and I’m proud to say that Michael Chandler Estate Agents is flourishing! Through winning scores of endorsements from customers and expert peers, it goes to show the dedication of the staff in making my initial vision a reality, and I feel so grateful to be the captain of this particular ship.”

Northern Ireland’s property market is experiencing something of a boom now, and Michael Chandler Estate Agents is confident it will stay ahead of the curve.

Michael adds: “Going forward we have a positive outlook to the property market in Northern Ireland. We also have plans in place to expand the team, services and territories with additional investment into the Michael Chandler brand.  I strongly believe that our approach is unique, and we will keep looking at ways to push the boundaries, simplify the process of buying and selling and ensure that we continue to strive for excellence.”



Foyleside Shopping Centre is delighted to announce that, owing to the hard work and effort of its dedicated staff, they are now the proud recipients of an Autism Impact Award from Autism NI. The prestigious Award is presented to organisations who go above and beyond to create an ‘Autism friendly environment’. This allows for the 30,000 individuals and families in Northern Ireland who are daily affected by autism to enjoy the same privileges as everyone else in the community.

Foyleside has six Champions dedicated to ensuring autism accessibility within the Centre, making it the largest Shopping Complex with a specially trained staff in Northern Ireland. These AQA accredited Autism Champions are Adrian O’Brien, Micheál Morrow, Angela O’Donnell, Amy O’Donnell, Alison Canning and Tina McAleer.

Foyleside Shopping Centre is only the second Shopping Complex in Northern Ireland, and the first Shopping Complex outside of Belfast, to receive the Award.

Wednesday evenings are also now being designated as “Quiet Evenings” in an effort to make retailers and shoppers alike more conscious of the challenges faced by Northern Ireland’s autistic community. The main mall and shop units will turn off any in-store music to help make the shopping experience more enjoyable for customers affected by autism.

Foyleside has also constructed a brand-new sensory room as part its initiative to make the Centre more universally accessible. The room is fitted with multiple features designed to calm, including fibre optics, bubble tubes and other devices aimed at destressing. Sound and light levels are adjustable and can be changed to cater to a specific child or adult’s needs.

Fergal Rafferty, Centre Manager at Foyleside Shopping Centre said, “We are extremely proud that Foyleside is now accessible to the many individuals and families in Northern Ireland who are daily affected by autism. We want all shoppers to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and above all, to have an enjoyable experience at Foyleside. We hope that we can encourage other businesses in Northern Ireland to follow suit and that, with our example, we have taken steps towards tolerance and inclusivity across society as a whole.”

With convenient parking until 9pm and over 50 amazing shops, Foyleside is the perfect place to be this Halloween. To find out more visit




Extra Care, Northern Ireland’s longest established domiciliary charity is proud to announce the creation of 10 new jobs in its new Cookstown office.

The expansion has come after the charity identified an increased need for home care services in the local and surrounding areas, as well as the need to have a presence in the community to support its Care Workers.

For over 80 years, Extra Care has been leading the way in how domiciliary care is delivered. The almost 350 strong team of Care Workers are trained to care for clients in their own home, all of whom have a varying degree of physical or mental health needs. Services provided range from domiciliary care, bespoke dementia care plans and mobile night services.

Care services are currently provided to clients across Northern Ireland including Antrim, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Ballymena, Lisburn, Ballyclare, Larne and Newry.

Jamie Smyth, Extra Care’s manager for the Cookstown area said, “We are so pleased with the expansion. Not only are we able to care for more people in the area, we are also able to offer jobs to Care Workers locally. After listening to our clients and identifying significant demand for our mobile night service, we are now able to increase our care service as well as provide consistent Care Worker support locally.

“We are currently recruiting Care Workers to join our experienced and expanding team. Extra Care prides itself on its excellent staff benefits, including flexible working hours, paid induction training and career development opportunities. We would love to hear from anyone who is interested in working in the care profession in the local area.”

Chief Executive of Extra Care Brian Hutchinson said, “Our goal is to ensure that we provide person-centred care, enabling people to remain in their own home for as long as possible, living with dignity and comfort.  As people’s needs change, we believe our support is at its most effective when delivered at home, where surroundings are familiar and the client is most content.

“The expansion and creation of new jobs in Cookstown is testament to the great service currently provided by the Extra Care staff across Northern Ireland. We are looking forward to provide care for people in the area.”

To find out more about existing roles, or to apply visit



Incorporate Benefits LLP, an employee benefits business has been shortlisted for two prestigious awards at this year’s national Health Insurance Awards, held at the luxurious 5-star Grosvenor House, London. Shortlisted for, ‘Best Cash Plan Intermediary’ and ‘Best Group PMI Intermediary’. The awards are designed to recognise excellence in the world of health care insurance, celebrating advisory and consultancy firms’ successes. Incorporate Benefits LLP is the only local Healthcare Specialist to be shortlisted.

Incorporate Benefits LLP specialises in providing Employee Benefits for business, including group medial insurance, health cash plans and corporate pension schemes.

The accolade is particularly poignant as the company client base currently includes several of the top 100 businesses in Northern Ireland. It has seen its client numbers increase significantly, some of which are the country’s best-known employers; Moy Park and Northstone.

Director of Incorporate Benefits LLP Audrey Spence said, “We are thrilled to be nominated for two awards. This national event is in its 20th year, so we are delighted to be amongst some of the biggest names in the industry at such an established event. To be the only specialist business in Northern Ireland shortlisted, is an extra bonus.”

Director John Kerr adds, “Given the business growth we have seen in recent months and the ever-growing client base, I am really proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time. Our vision is to transform the way companies think about their employee benefits and ensure employees know about their workplace schemes and how to best utilise these.  With the prospect of bringing home one or even two awards, it is great encouragement for us.”

Lorraine Milne, Business Development Manager comments, “These are such prestigious awards in our field and we are delighted to be shortlisted. The business is growing on a monthly basis and it is so pleasing to see all the hard work being recognised.”

The awards gala, taking place on 18th October 2018, will be hosted by one of the biggest comedians in the UK, Jimmy Carr. Celebrating on the night will be over 900 guests from across the industry.



The Security Team at Foyleside Shopping Centre are celebrating after winning two top awards at this year’s British Security Industry Association Awards. The team scooped the top prize of “Best Team” and security guard Paula Casey was recognised for her work with the accolade “Service to a Customer”.

The Best Team award is presented to the team who demonstrates excellence in customer service and effectively working together.  The Service to a Customer prize is awarded to a team member who provides high quality customer care, gives an outstanding service to the customer who has received other achievements. Paula has previously been awarded with an “Excellence in Action” Awards for her input during the Customer Service Excellence Shopper Report in 2017.

Foyleside Shopping Centre was ranked number 1 in a survey of 26 shopping centres in the Lambert Smith Hampton portfolio for customer service.

The high calibre of entrants applied from across the UK and Foyleside Shopping Centre beat off stiff competition from numerous private security companies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Fergal Rafferty, Centre Manager at Foyleside Shopping Centre said, “The awards are testament to the fantastic team we have here.  We pride ourselves on the high quality and professionalism of our security team who are dedicated, friendly, hard-working and well-respected. The BSIA has led the way for over 50 years in shaping the private security industry and to be recognised amongst such successful organisations is a great accolade, not only for the Security Team but the centre as a whole.

“Quite often, being a security guard is associated with being a more male dominated profession, however we are proud to have Paula as a key team member who has proven over the years her passion and dedication for what she does. I love hearing from our customers and tenants what a friendly and personable person she is, and she is most deserving of the credit she receives.”



Leading cosmetic retailer Make Up Pro Store has opened a brand-new state of the art store in Derry/Londonderry. The business, founded by award-winning makeup artist Paddy McGurgan, has moved from its premises on Pump Street to a 1,600 sq ft space in Foyleside Shopping Centre, following an investment of £50,000.

The new store will not only act as a cosmetic store but additionally as a makeup training academy. Budding makeup artists will be able to avail of innovative lessons in the artistry of makeup, learning complex techniques from Paddy himself and his team of highly trained artists. With the relocation to Foyleside Shopping Centre, Make Up Pro Store to has expanded its brand offering to include Professional Make Up Brand Make Up For Ever, marking the first time the is brand available in the Derry/Londonderry area. The store houses an impressive range of cosmetic favourites such as Sugarpill, Illamasqua, Lime Crime, Cozzette and many more. The new Foyleside store is the third in the company’s retail portfolio with its flagship store based in Belfast and an additional store in Newry.

Speaking on the new store launch, Paddy McGurgan, Founder of Make Up Pro Store said, “We are delighted to bring Make Up Pro Store to Foyleside. For some time now, we have been considering a larger space for our Derry/Londonderry customers. Foyleside has been on our radar and it is fantastic to be finally set up within this bustling centre. There is a huge audience for cosmetics and innovative makeup brands in the North West and we are confident the public will be thrilled with our new store and the unique brands that will be available. The larger space allows us to not only offer a wider array of products but also gives us more opportunities for instore events and training sessions.”

Fergal Rafferty, Manager of Foyleside Shopping Centre added, “Make Up Pro Store is a wonderful addition to the shopping centre. The popularity of makeup brands has increased rapidly in the past few years and having Makeup Pro Store cements Foyleside as a cosmetics hub, with a huge range of brands available. We wish Paddy and his team the best of luck in their new store and have upmost confidence that this will be one of the most visited outlets in the centre.”

Having launched in 2012 in Belfast by Paddy McGurgan, Make Up Pro Store continues to grow with plans in place for additional retail outlets in the future. Paddy’s expert employees have in-depth knowledge of makeup techniques and know the cosmetic industry inside out. Paddy has trained over 650 budding make up artists since arriving in the city, giving ambitious individuals the opportunity to work for themselves and set up their own business. Existing makeup artists can book in for unique artist-to-artist lessons at the store, to build on their skill base and gain new knowledge and approaches to makeup application. For more information on the store and services offered visit