Hundreds of jobs to be created in new stores around the country...
Convenience store chain Centra is set to open 20 new shops around Ireland over the next 12 months.
The €20 million expansion will create 460 jobs at the company and comes after a bumper 2016 that saw profits climb 3% to €1.59 billion.
Centra already employs nearly 11,000 people in more than 450 Irish stores. Some 100 of those are set to be refurbished this year.
Despite the announcement, the net number of new stores could end up being lower – Centra had said it would open 16 new stores in 2016, but ended up opening eight.
Managing director Martin Kelleher noted that €10 million had already been invested in creating a "radical new Centra in-store experience". Healthier bakery ranges, a gourmet deli and gourmet coffee offering Frank and Honest will be introduced in the coming months.
Centra's positive news comes as Ibec warns that Irish retailers are struggling to deal with softening consumer sentiment and a move towards shopping with British-based online retailers.
The new Retail Ireland Monitor shows a downturn in performance during the second half of 2016, with total sales falling by 0.1% in a disappointing festive season.
Retail Ireland director Thomas Burke says 2016 was a year of two halves:
"In the first half we saw a steady incremental growth over the first six months of the year. But certainly in the second half of the year, growth slowed significantly. There are a number of factors we would put that down to.
"Certainly there has been a softening in consumer sentiment among Irish consumers and they're less likely to spend as freely as they were in the first half of last year.
"The Irish retailers have reacted strongly to that and have put in place some very good value propositions and have reduced prices to react to that," he continued. "And I guess the battle for Irish retailers over the coming months will be to continue to offer Irish consumers the best value for money possible and encourage them to [...] shop locally."