Staff at Derry’s B&Q store have bid customers a fond farewell as the shutters were pulled for the last time at the weekend.
The closure of the Buncrana Road store on Saturday brings to an end the company’s 26-year tenure in the city, with around 45 staff losing their jobs there as a result.
B&Q was previously located in the Waterside, on the site now occupied by T.K. Maxx, Next and Matalan, and several of the staff who lost their jobs on Saturday have been with the companysince they first opened.
One of those who has been there since the start is Waterside woman Claire Welsh, having joined in the first wave of recruits back in 1989.
Speaking just before the store closed, Claire (49) said:
“B&Q were the first English company to come to the town and we were the first site in Northern Ireland. Then came Ballymena and Newtonabbey . I remember there was a lot of buzz around it opening.
“Then there was a fire bomb in it. The incendiary device caused the closure of the shop and they split us up.
“Then 10 years ago they opened Buncrana Road. It would be 11 years in May coming actually.
“It was a massive, massive site to start with and then they reduced it down five years ago and Dunelm took over part of it.”
Some of the staff believe that had well advanced plans for Tescos to open a store on the same Buncrana Road site been allowed to go ahead, their own store would have been much busier and the closure would not have occurred.
“You feel this didn’t have to happen,” Claire said.
The plans for a large Tesco store and hundreds of jobs were blocked on a number of occasions by the local council, with concerns expressed over the impact such a store would have on current retailers operating across the wider area.
Claire, who has managed to find some alternative employment, said she hopes that all her B&Q colleagues will find new jobs.
“It has been good craic working here and the staff are very hard workers,” she said.
“All the customers know everybody. It’s like a wee family.
“They were a very good company to work for and you got to know all the customers coming in.
“It’s terrible that it is closing. We never thought that would happen, but we are all accepting of it now.”
The B&Q workers were informed that the store was one of many earmarked for closure at the end of March 2015.
The planned closure of the popular Derry store sparked widespread concern for the 50 local employees.
A B&Q spokesperson told the ‘Journal’ a few weeks ago that the company was still in the process of consulting with colleagues at the store with regards to their future.
The Derry store was among five of the nine B&Q stores in Northern Ireland which parent company Kingfisher plan to close over the next few years.
A total of 60 B&Q store closures are expected to take place across Britain and Ireland over the next few years, its parent company has said.