Rushmere breaks new visitor record as shoppers rush back

05/05/2021

Rushmere Shopping Centre and Retail Park had its busiest bank holiday weekend on record in May as more than 136,000 visitors returned after restrictions on non-essential retail outlets were lifted on Friday April 30.

One of Northern Ireland’s largest and most successful retail destinations, Rushmere said daily visitor numbers from Friday through to close of business on Monday were similar to those seen in the last few days before Christmas in a normal trading year.

Out-of-town retail centres and parks have performed relatively strongly compared with high streets in the last year and are recovering faster than any other type of shopping destination, according to a recent Springboard analysis.

Rushmere Shopping Centre manager, Martin Walsh, said:

“Though we had been anticipating a busy return last weekend, we were delighted to record an unprecedented number of shoppers visiting the centre and retail park right through the four-day shopping period and that despite being busy, everyone was in really great spirits and delighted to be back. It was very encouraging to see.”

“Customers and staff were delighted to be safely back out and about and the buzz was fantastic. From our research, shoppers were returning not only to bag themselves a bargain but also to spend some of their lockdown savings on a pre-summer splurge.”

Rushmere said it had also added an outdoor dining terrace for customers ahead of the weekend and that this was providing “extremely popular” for Al Fresco casual dining.

“Bright, modern, spacious and carefully managed, Rushmere is well-placed to ensure that every customer’s journey reflects maximum safety at all times, and we were delighted with the strong adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing throughout the complex,” Martin said.

Rushmere remains focused on safety, extending opening hours across most stores to spread demand and reduce queues.

Though Friday marked its first ‘normal’ trading day since Christmas Eve 2020, the centre had remained open for retailers of essential items such as food, pharmacy and pet supplies since March, with Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Home Bargains, Boots, Specsavers, Holland & Barrett, Post Office, B&M Bargains, Pets at Home and Pound Stretcher all continuing to operate.Several other stores, including Matalan, Curry’s PC World and Argos reopened for click-and-collect services on April 12, while hospitality outlets including McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Five Guys and Nando’s continued to provide a mix of delivery and takeaway services.

Nelson Shanks, Regional Manager for Five Guys restaurant, said:

“It’s great to have our Five Guys restaurant back at Rushmere back in action following the relaxation of covid restrictions which allows us to serve our customers with our outdoor dining space. This,  along with the outdoor seating recently installed by Rushmere, is proving to be a huge success and a great boost for everyone.”


Galgorm Collection set to open The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat this summer

29/04/2021

Galgorm Collection has announced the opening of Northern Ireland’s newest luxury hotel in an investment worth £10 million that will create an additional 26 hospitality jobs, taking its total workforce to almost 100 team members, and provide an exciting welcome break for visitors from this summer.

The 33-bedroom boutique hotel and spa – The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat – will open on 18 June and follows the purchase and dramatic transformation of the former Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick, a picturesque Co Antrim village located only 20 minutes from Belfast and 10 minutes from Belfast International Airport.

The property was acquired by Galgorm Collection in 2018 and now offers stylish accommodation, a luxury outdoor spa and lakeside walk, an onsite bar and restaurant and an exclusive-use events space for weddings and conferences.

Galgorm Collection Managing Director, Colin Johnston, said:

“After more than 18 months of extensive redevelopment and a challenging year for the hospitality industry we’re thrilled to throw open our doors and welcome guests to enjoy this unmatched new experience.

Not only does this represent a significant investment in the local economy and cements our longstanding commitment to support and grow our tourism industry, but it comes with 26 new hospitality roles which we are currently recruiting for.”

Extensive refurbishment work has been undertaken to upgrade the hotel’s 33 guestrooms which come equipped with all the latest mod cons.

Additionally, a £2 million outdoor spa area offers guests a lakeside tranquil space for relaxation, with unique attractions including Swedish saunas, aromatherapy steam room, halotherapy salt chamber and Roman inspired baths and hot tubs. Exclusive to The Rabbit is a lakeside beach complete with heated sand, a Lake Bar, sunken lounge and plush cabanas for a laid back, luxurious experience.

The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat will safely welcome its first guests from Friday 18th June 2021 and stays can be booked online at rabbithotel.com.

“We’re all about good times at The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat and guests can expect a truly unique experience; from relaxing on our brand-new heated beach with lakeside views, the only attraction of its kind in the island of Ireland, to enjoying a personal cocktail turndown service from the comfort of our stylish rooms.

With full safety measures in place and a fresh new offering, The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat is the perfect place for reuniting with loved ones and enjoying memorable new experiences and we look forward to welcoming guests this summer,” said Colin Johnston.

Following an extensive £2.5 million refurbishment, The Rabbit Restaurant and Hunter’s Bar first opened to diners in July 2020, seating up to 180 guests and boasting a large outdoor terrace for al fresco dining. Internally, the restaurant is home to an extensive wine cellar featuring the finest labels from around the world, whilst a showstopping bar adorned in glistening bronze takes centre stage along with its extensive cocktail menu.

In addition to the accommodation, spa and bar and restaurant offering, The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat has also opened the doors to its brand-new banqueting suite and wedding venue The Loft, offering unabridged luxury in a magical setting.

With high vaulted ceilings, chandeliers adorned with foliage, marble dining tables, dramatic fireplaces and a stunning romantic lake view from the spacious outdoor terrace, the fairy-tale setting is the ideal backdrop for a picture-perfect wedding day. Operating a one wedding a day policy, The Loft is available for up to 140 guests.

Galgorm is renowned for creating world-class hospitality experiences throughout their award-winning properties in Northern Ireland. Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort has received numerous awards and accolades for their stellar service and offering, including receiving the Four AA Red Star Award for excellence in quality and hospitality last year, as well as previously holding the coveted title of Global Luxury Spa Hotel of the Year.


Shoppers set to bag bigger savings as Lidl Northern Ireland launches new Lidl Plus rewards app

26/04/2021

The region’s fastest-growing supermarket retailer, Lidl Northern Ireland, has confirmed the launch of its brand new instant customer rewards app Lidl Plus which will deliver even more savings and benefits to shoppers across the retailer’s network of 41 stores.

The announcement comes after a successful trial and roll out of the Lidl Plus App in the UK and Republic of Ireland last summer and in response to changing consumer habits and a greater interest from shoppers on using instore grocery discounts.

Lidl Plus is designed to deliver customers with instant rewards and instant savings each week through a phenomenal range of discounts and freebies across Lidl Northern Ireland’s selection of 2,500 permanently listed items.

New research* published today by Lidl Northern Ireland also reveals that nearly two thirds of Northern Irish consumers (64%) are spending more on groceries now than they did pre-lockdown, with almost a quarter of shoppers (23%) saying they are spending a lot more.

Three quarters (72%) say they actively seek out supermarket loyalty discounts to save on their regular shop, whilst 8 out of 10 people say that low prices influence their grocery purchases more so now than pre-lockdown.

Gordon Cruikshanks, Head of Sales Operations Lidl Northern Ireland, said:

“We’re delighted to roll out the Lidl Plus app across Northern Ireland. As the region’s fastest-growing supermarket, we welcome more than 350,000 customers through our doors each week who visit us for our great quality, low price produce.

Value is an incredibly important factor for customers which our own research confirms, with half of all consumers heavily guided by low prices, particularly given the financial pressures placed on families over the last 12 months. 

We’re thrilled to now offer our customers even more value and bring additional savings and incredible discounts across our wide range of quality products with Lidl Plus. The app is so easy to use and customers can register their profile in just 90 seconds to instantly access rewards and begin saving at the checkout.”

The Lidl Plus app also features additional functionality further benefitting customers, including a nifty store locator so shoppers can find their closest Lidl while off on staycation this summer, information on opening hours, weekly leaflets, an in-app shopping list and a digital receipt library for quick and easy viewing.

Customers can also scan their Lidl Plus app at the check out to receive a ‘Scratch & Win’, digital scratch card, revealing further instant savings which can be redeemed in-store against Lidl Northern Ireland’s quality products.

Lidl Plus is now available to download on the iOS and Android app stores. Customers simply download the app to their phone and register their details to begin receiving weekly coupons which can be scanned and redeemed at the checkout every time they shop with Lidl Northern Ireland.


Charles Hurst marks Earth Day with £3.5m Electric and Hybrid vehicle investment

22/04/2021

Charles Hurst Group, Northern Ireland’s biggest motoring retailer, has today announced an investment of over £3.5 million in a sustainability transformation of the business in a company fleet of fully electric and hybrid vehicles for employees and an extensive charging infrastructure programme.

The £3.5 million investment means that one in three of the company’s entire fleet of company car and demonstrator vehicles is now either fully electric or a hybrid model. The overall package includes an investment of £200,000 in charging infrastructure across all eight of its customer sites, bringing the total number of charging points up to over 80.

One of Northern Ireland’s largest employers and investors, with 900 employees across eight sites, the Top 100 company confirmed the investment to mark Earth Day, an annual day designed to encourage people across the world to take positive steps towards a more sustainable future.

The UK will become the first nation within the G7 to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles, as the government plans to phase out the sale of new cars and vans run on traditional fuels by 2030.

The company’s Group Operations Director has said that the investment is a sign of the company’s determination to lead by example as new climate change legislation makes its way through the Northern Ireland Assembly, setting ambitious emission reduction targets for the economy.

Group Operations Director, Jeff McCartney, said:

“This £3.5 million investment in our electric and hybrid vehicle fleet and infrastructure, about a third of our overall company fleet, represents our commitment to achieving our collective vision for a greener, more sustainable economy here in Northern Ireland.

Research published recently suggests that average “lifetime“ emissions from electric cars are up to 30% lower than petrol cars in the UK, but that figure will improve as the country shifts to cleaner energy sources.

Additionally, research from Charles Hurst shows that, based on a customer changing from a Nissan Qashqai to a fully electric Nissan Leaf, for example, there is an approximate cost saving of almost £100 per month with vehicle running costs and over £4,000 over the cost of ownership.

“Our industry has an important leadership role to play, not only because of the ambitious and welcome targets that have been set out for the rollout of electric vehicles to replace diesel and petrol, but because we have an opportunity to lead by example in our own businesses as well.

“We know the evidence suggests that not only will electric vehicles be pivotal in meeting climate change targets, but there are also thousands of pounds in cost-savings that households can make over time.”

The newly purchased fleet includes a series of the most popular electric vehicle brands such as the Peugeot e2008 and Jaguar I-Pace. However, the wider offering to Northern Ireland’s motorists includes 16 brands across the range now with an electric or hybrid offering, including 88 different electric or hybrid models and hundreds of derivatives for customers to choose from.

Charles Hurst Group is Northern Ireland’s largest car retailer. A division of Lookers plc, one of the UK’s principal automotive retail and distribution groups. Charles Hurst represents 22 automotive brands across eight sites, offering customers across Ireland the most comprehensive choice of new and used vehicles, parts and servicing.


Galgorm Collection acquires historic hotel The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn

13/04/2021

Galgorm Collection has confirmed the purchase of the historic, four-star luxury hotel The Old Inn in a multi-million-pound deal.

The investment by Galgorm Collection, which owns the world-renowned Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and a number of other properties across Belfast and Antrim, includes £1 million in further development and extension plans to the property.

The company has also confirmed that all existing team members will be retained across the North Down property which is currently preparing to safely reopen its doors as soon as hospitality restrictions are lifted.

Colin Johnston, Galgorm Collection Managing Director, said:

“Galgorm Collection is committed to cementing the region’s reputation as a world-class tourism destination through our property portfolio. The Old Inn is one of the region’s most historic and appealing hotels, located in a unique and charming location which makes it a perfect fit for Galgorm.”

With a history dating back to 1614 and links to the world-famous local author C.S. Lewis, the iconic thatched-roof property has become one of the country’s top hotels, having received the prestigious accolade of AA Hotel of the Year in 2017/18 after a series of enhancements and extensions.

Occupying a prominent 1.5-acre site in the heart of Crawfordsburn village, the property is located adjacent to Crawfordsburn Country Park, offering a tranquil escape just 20 minutes from Belfast.

The hotel boasts 33 individually styled bedrooms, two wedding suites, and the 78-seater Lewis restaurant. As part of its investment, Galgorm Collection plans to develop the property to the rear of the site.

“With an initial strategic investment of £1 million, we are planning to build upon the hotel’s award-winning credentials and extend the site to incorporate a boutique spa with infinity pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, private cabanas and relax space. 

“We’re thrilled to add The Old Inn and its fantastic team to our collection and take this iconic property forward into a new era for tourism and hospitality. We are confident we will be in a position to reopen the restaurant and bar mid-to-late May, based on the easing of Government restrictions. Reservations for future stays can be made from 19th April and we look forward to safely welcoming guests back to enjoy a fantastic stay”, added Colin.

As well as supporting its world-class leisure proposition, the latest move by Galgorm represents a further strategic investment of the group’s hospitality assets, but also reinforces the company’s ongoing commitment to the tourism industry and Northern Ireland as a whole.

The acquisition of The Old Inn adds to the group’s already impressive suite of hospitality assets, which includes the award-winning Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, the 3AA Rosette River Room Restaurant, Gillies Bar & Grill Restaurant and Fratelli’s. The group also operates Castle Kitchen & Bar at Galgorm Castle Golf Club in Ballymena.

In Belfast, it also operates restaurants Fratelli’s on Great Victoria Street and Café Parisien, offering a French brasserie-style menu in the iconic Robinson & Cleaver building overlooking City Hall on Donegall Square.

Last year, the group confirmed the purchase and refurbishment of its latest hospitality venture, The Rabbit, located in Templepatrick at the site of the former Templeton Hotel, which is due to open on Friday 18 June 2021.

For more information please visit www.galgorm.com or to book visit www.theoldinn.com


New hospitality training school launches offering guaranteed employment with three of Northern Ireland’s top hotels

02/04/2021

The Gallaher Trust has announced the launch of the Northern Ireland Hospitality School offering enrollers the chance to gain a hospitality qualification and secure guaranteed employment with one of Northern Ireland’s top hotels.

Over the next three years, The Gallaher Trust will invest almost £260,000 in supporting the Northern Ireland Hospitality School, a brand new educational centre focused on providing hospitality training and a pathway to employment for those seeking a career in the industry.

Backed by City & Guilds, the school will offer a six-week Level 2 Award in Professional Bartending (Cocktails) course delivered in partnership with the Northern Regional College.

Upon successful completion of the course, newly qualified bartenders will be guaranteed employment at one of Northern Ireland’s top hotels; Adair Arms Hotel, Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort or Tullyglass House Hotel. With an estimated 72 jobs available over the next three years, the hospitality partnership represents a combined investment of more than £1.3 million into local employment.

Ian Paisley MP, Chair of The Gallaher Trust, said:

“I’m delighted to launch the Northern Ireland Hospitality School and confirm a significant jobs boost for the local area today. The Gallaher Trust is an independent charity committed to promoting job creation and skills development and providing support for disadvantaged adults in the Ballymena community.

The idea for the Northern Ireland Hospitality School came from a group of passionate industry professionals who wanted to fill a gap in the market for people looking to change or start their career in hospitality and, after years of planning, it’s fantastic to see the school open and ready for its first intake of enrollers.

For us, facilitating a pathway to employment is key to the school’s success and we’re thrilled to be working with three of Northern Ireland’s leading hoteliers to provide guaranteed jobs alongside first class skills training with education and delivery partner Northern Regional College all of which will meet the tenets of the Trust.”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has also given some support and their Chief Executive,

Anne Donaghy added:

“After a challenging year for the sector, and for those employed in the hospitality industry, today’s announcement is a positive step forward in working towards recovery and generating new career opportunities. It’s also a fantastic boost for the local economy and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting education and employment.”

Ashley Douglas, Northern Regional College Lecturer, said:

“We’re thrilled to partner with the newly established Northern Ireland Hospitality School and deliver a fantastic new training programme for those keen to pursue a career in hospitality. The new City & Guilds course offers a real mix of training, from basic bartending to the art of mixology, sales techniques and finance training to personal development.

We’re also excited to welcome the first intake of 12 enrollers in May, with a view to placing successful candidates into employment by late June. With no formal entry requirements, the course is accessible to everyone that can demonstrate a passion for delivering excellence and offers a fantastic opportunity for those interested in a career in hospitality to get a first foot on the ladder with a top Northern Ireland employer.

With further course intakes planned for late 2021 and into 2022, I would encourage anyone interested in applying for the course to visit nihospitalityschool.com for more information.”


Lidl announced as first retailer to become JAM Card friendly in support of vulnerable customers

02/04/2021

Lidl Northern Ireland, together with the NOW Group, has announced it will be the first retailer to become Just A Minute (JAM) Card friendly across its network of stores in the island of Ireland over the coming weeks. Lidl has also committed to sponsoring 6,000 JAM Cards which contributes towards keeping the cards free and accessible to those who need them.

The announcement comes ahead of World Autism Day on Friday 2 April and is the latest move by the retailer in demonstrating its commitment to vulnerable customers and supports further in-store initiatives dedicated to meeting their needs.

Earlier this year, Lidl completed a needs assessment by reaching out to autism charities in Ireland and discovered that more than 85% of respondents felt a form of voluntary identification would be beneficial at times when more vulnerable customers need ‘Just A Minute’ to relieve stress levels while shopping. In response to this, Lidl has been working closely with the NOW Group which supports people with learning difficulties and autism. The organisation developed the JAM Card with its service users designed to allow users additional time and patience when in people facing environments such as supermarkets. Over the coming weeks, Lidl Northern Ireland is rolling out detailed JAM Card training and tools to employees in their 41 stores nationwide with hopes that the new initiative will help to support customers with learning difficulties, autism, or communication barriers.

JAM Card was originally developed for those with learning disabilities and difficulties. However, it can be used by anyone with a communication barrier including people with Asperger’s or autism. It can also be used by those who have a brain injury and people who may feel self-conscious about their ability to effectively communicate when engaging with others.

Angela Connan, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Lidl Northern Ireland commented on the news:

“We’re delighted to be the first retailer in Northern Ireland to become JAM Card friendly across all 41 stores. This initiative is another positive step in our journey to becoming a more accessible retailer for everyone and a great example of how we actively listen to our customers’ feedback and make tangible actions.

“By becoming JAM Card friendly, we’re furthering our commitment to providing excellent customer care and, alongside our existing in-store initiatives such as dedicated weekly autism evenings, we’re helping support vulnerable customers even further. We hope that all of our customers will feel even more comfortable while shopping in stores, with the assurance that our employees will understand and give those who need some extra time, ‘Just a Minute’.”

Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of NOW Group who is behind the JAM Card scheme, said:

We are so pleased that Lidl has partnered with NOW Group to become JAM Card friendly and recognise the value of investing in training their staff to provide great customer service for people with both visible and hidden disabilities. 

“It may be ‘Just A Minute’ but that extra time and understanding can really support and comfort those with communications barriers, helping to give them equal access to the services they need every day, like shopping.

“Our participants developed the JAM Card so to see the scale of staff training and promotion to Lidl shoppers across Northern Ireland is a great boost to them. It is proof that they came up with a truly innovative idea and that JAM Card training is a great way to improve customer service for all businesses.”

NOW Group Ambassador, Ciarán Delaney, has tirelessly promoted the JAM Card across the island of Ireland and is a leading advocate for the rights of disabled people.

The JAM Card supports and encourages independence for those with a range of disabilities.  I am thrilled that Lidl Northern Ireland has become JAM Card friendly; it means their customers can shop with confidence knowing that staff will discreetly acknowledge that some shoppers might just need a bit more time”, he said.

The JAM Card is available free of charge to anyone who needs it. For more information, please visit www.jamcard.org.


Galgorm Collection set to open The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat this summer

29/03/2021

Galgorm Collection has announced the opening of Northern Ireland’s newest luxury hotel in an investment worth £10 million that will create an additional 26 hospitality jobs, taking its total workforce to almost 100 team members, and provide an exciting welcome break for visitors from this summer.

The 33-bedroom boutique hotel and spa – The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat – will open on 18 June and follows the purchase and dramatic transformation of the former Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick, a picturesque Co Antrim village located only 20 minutes from Belfast and 10 minutes from Belfast International Airport.

The property was acquired by Galgorm Collection in 2018 and now offers stylish accommodation, a luxury outdoor spa and lakeside walk, an onsite bar and restaurant and an exclusive-use events space for weddings and conferences.

Galgorm Collection Managing Director, Colin Johnston, said:

“After more than 18 months of extensive redevelopment and a challenging year for the hospitality industry we’re thrilled to throw open our doors and welcome guests to enjoy this unmatched new experience.

Not only does this represent a significant investment in the local economy and cements our longstanding commitment to support and grow our tourism industry, but it comes with 26 new hospitality roles which we are currently recruiting for.”

Extensive refurbishment work has been undertaken to upgrade the hotel’s 33 guestrooms which come equipped with all the latest mod cons.

Additionally, a £2 million outdoor spa area offers guests a lakeside tranquil space for relaxation, with unique attractions including Swedish saunas, aromatherapy steam room, halotherapy salt chamber and Roman inspired baths and hot tubs. Exclusive to The Rabbit is a lakeside beach complete with heated sand, a Lake Bar, sunken lounge and plush cabanas for a laid back, luxurious experience.

The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat will safely welcome its first guests from Friday 18th June 2021 and stays can be booked online at rabbithotel.com.

“We’re all about good times at The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat and guests can expect a truly unique experience; from relaxing on our brand-new heated beach with lakeside views, the only attraction of its kind in the island of Ireland, to enjoying a personal cocktail turndown service from the comfort of our stylish rooms.

With full safety measures in place and a fresh new offering, The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat is the perfect place for reuniting with loved ones and enjoying memorable new experiences and we look forward to welcoming guests this summer,” said Colin Johnston.

Following an extensive £2.5 million refurbishment, The Rabbit Restaurant and Hunter’s Bar first opened to diners in July 2020, seating up to 180 guests and boasting a large outdoor terrace for al fresco dining. Internally, the restaurant is home to an extensive wine cellar featuring the finest labels from around the world, whilst a showstopping bar adorned in glistening bronze takes centre stage along with its extensive cocktail menu.

In addition to the accommodation, spa and bar and restaurant offering, The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat has also opened the doors to its brand-new banqueting suite and wedding venue The Loft, offering unabridged luxury in a magical setting.

With high vaulted ceilings, chandeliers adorned with foliage, marble dining tables, dramatic fireplaces and a stunning romantic lake view from the spacious outdoor terrace, the fairy-tale setting is the ideal backdrop for a picture-perfect wedding day. Operating a one wedding a day policy, The Loft is available for up to 140 guests.

Galgorm is renowned for creating world-class hospitality experiences throughout their award-winning properties in Northern Ireland. Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort has received numerous awards and accolades for their stellar service and offering, including receiving the Four AA Red Star Award for excellence in quality and hospitality last year, as well as previously holding the coveted title of Global Luxury Spa Hotel of the Year.

For more information visit www.rabbithotel.com.


Lookers Completes Senior Management Appointments

25/03/2021

Lookers plc has confirmed the appointment of Chris Whitaker to the role of Chief People Officer, effective immediately, completing a series of Senior Management appointments.

One of the UK and Ireland’s leading motor retail and aftersales service groups, Lookers plc said this key appointment marks a new and important milestone in the company’s plans for new growth and development.

An accomplished Group HR director with almost 30 years’ experience, Chris joined Lookers in August 2020 and has been acting as Interim HR director since October. Chris will now lead the company’s HR and internal communications operations in his new role as Chief People Officer.

Lookers’ Executive Committee now comprises Chief Executive Mark Raban, Chief Operating Officer Duncan McPhee, Chief Financial Officer Anna Bielby, Chief Information Officer Andy Garrett, Chief Risk Officer Marcus Kenny and Company Secretary Phil Kenny.

Mark Raban, Chief Executive Officer, welcomed the appointment:

“I’m delighted to announce the appointment of Chris Whitaker to the role of Chief People Officer, further consolidating our senior management team and providing a strong base from which to drive new growth and development.

“Our people are our most valuable asset and I have every confidence that Chris will continue to harness the outstanding talent, skills and experience we seek to build further on this unrivalled core strength.

“With his fresh impetus, Chris has already made a fantastic contribution to the Group and he will bring invaluable experience to the role as we prepare to safely scale up our operations again when restrictions are eased. I am delighted that Chris is joining our Executive Committee and I look forward to working closely with him in the weeks and months ahead.”

A graduate of the University of Huddersfield, Chris is a forward thinking, strategically focused and pragmatic leader with proven expertise in attracting, retaining and developing talent.

Chief People Officer, Chris Whitaker, said:

“I’m thrilled to be joining the senior team at Lookers at an important, exciting time in the company’s development and I look forward to assisting in delivering a new, shared growth right across our network. This appointment is a privilege, and I would like to thank my colleagues for their support as I embark on this new and focal role.”

Earlier this month, Lookers announced the appointment of Paul van der Burgh as a non-Executive Director from 1 April, joining the Board with non-Executive Chairman Phil White CBE and non-Executive Directors, Heather Jackson, Vicky Mitchell and Robin Churchouse.

Lookers represents 31 vehicle manufacturers, selling and servicing a wide range of new and used vehicles from a network of 160 dealerships in the UK and Ireland.


Lidl Northern Ireland & McCulla Launch Fully Green Transport Fleet

25/03/2021

Lidl Northern Ireland has become the first retailer in the UK and Ireland to launch a fully green transport fleet powered by waste-to-energy generation, in partnership with leading local logistics company McCulla Transport.

The new fleet of eight bio-methane powered trucks marks the first significant business integration between the transport and retail sector in Northern Ireland and represents a major step forward for Northern Ireland in its move to slash carbon emissions.

In the coming weeks, using food waste collected from all 41 Lidl Northern Ireland stores, McCulla will start to create fully renewable bio-methane gas at its anaerobic digester (AD) plant in Lisburn to power a sustainable, next generation transport operation which then delivers produce to Lidl stores across Northern Ireland every day.

The new sustainable transport fleet will deliver improved efficiencies and reduce the retailer’s carbon emissions of these vehicles by up to 93%.

Conor Boyle, Regional Director of Lidl Northern Ireland said:

“This partnership with McCulla underlines our commitment to developing sustainable and innovative solutions which create real impact in every area of our business. From using renewable electricity to power our stores to advancing our Plastic Pledge and introducing numerous in-store initiatives to reduce waste, Lidl Northern Ireland is leading the way.

We’re thrilled to now be the first supermarket retailer to successfully integrate the first waste-to-energy sustainable transport model. McCulla’s fleet covers more than 2,300 road miles per day, ensuring the safe and timely delivery of fresh and chilled foods to more than 300,000 weekly customers across our regional store network. The introduction of this new ‘green fleet’ operating on fully renewable biomethane as its primary fuel source will save more than 93% in carbon emissions due per bio-methane truck.

We’re proud to work alongside McCulla to pave the way for the sector and for Northern Ireland in driving a cleaner, greener economy through responsible business practice.”

With more than 50 years’ experience in the haulage industry, McCulla is one of the leading providers of ambient, chilled and frozen logistics solutions throughout the UK and Ireland and has been working with Lidl Northern Ireland for the last 5 years. Remaining family-owned and operating from Lisburn and Dublin, McCulla employs 235 staff across a variety of roles, the most recent being employed to manage the company’s new customs clearance division.

Ashley McCulla, Chairman of McCulla, said:

“Since 2017 we have been producing all of our own electricity from an anaerobic digester (AD) plant at our site in Lisburn but our ultimate goal was always to use energy produced by the AD plant to power our logistics fleet as well. Working with Lidl Northern Ireland, we’ve delivered on that ambition and we’re honoured to be part of a real first for the industry, and for Northern Ireland.

For many retailers dedicated to decarbonisation, transport and logistics can be challenging. However, with our expertise and experience and dedicated partnership with Lidl Northern Ireland, this milestone initiative will deliver major environmental benefits for years to come.

Working with a likeminded and forward-thinking partner like Lidl Northern Ireland has been key in the successful delivery of this project. The circular economy nature of the partnership relies on both organisations being fully committed to integrating sustainable new business practices. After months/years of planning and preparation, we’re proud to see our new green fleet finally roll out across the region.”

Commenting on the announcement, Economy Minister, Diane Dodds, said:

“I very much welcome the announcement by Lidl and McCulla Transport today which is another tangible step in Northern Ireland leadership in decarbonising our energy system, in this instance in the ground-breaking displacement of fossil fuel in our transport sector. It is also a concrete example of the circular economy in action, which is an important part of our green economic recovery.”  

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots welcomed the announcement:

“I am absolutely delighted to see the introduction of Northern Ireland’s first green logistics fleet by one of our biggest supermarket retailers. Low emissions transport has been a long-term goal for many businesses and its widespread adoption is a key goal in helping us reach our goals for tackling climate change.

Today’s announcement demonstrates how industries can work together cohesively to deliver practical solutions for businesses, consumers and communities and I applaud McCulla and Lidl Northern Ireland for their work in realising this ambition. Achieving emissions reductions means we must work collectively, and I’m delighted to see responsible businesses stepping up to the challenge.  This is good for our climate, will create green jobs and will benefit our environment.”

The introduction of the new green transport fleet is the latest move by the retailer in delivering on its dedicated sustainability commitments as part of its overarching corporate social responsibility framework ‘A Better Tomorrow’.

In December 2020, Lidl Northern Ireland received Silver level CORE accreditation through Business in the Community – a prestigious accreditation in recognition of its commitment to doing business in a way that is better for employees, the planet and communities.

Lidl Northern Ireland was also announced as a climate champion and the retail sponsors of the Business in the Community Northern Ireland Climate Pledge. By signing this, Lidl Northern Ireland will be one of the first companies in Northern Ireland to commit to reporting GHG emissions, reviewing progress towards targets and implementing a strategy to meet sustainability targets.

The retailer was also awarded ‘Green Company of the Year’ at the 2019 Business Eye Awards, and has previously been awarded the coveted ‘Outstanding Achievement in Corporate Social Responsibility’ at the Chambers Ireland CSR Awards, retained the award for Excellence in Environment and won the Excellence in Community.

McCulla Ireland has also received a number of accolades in recent years, with recognition at five separate industry events for its commitment to environmental protection, including the prestigious 2019 Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport Awards for Excellence.  Ashley McCulla has also been commended as Family Business Director of the Year at the Institute of Directors Awards and was a finalist in the 2019 EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition. The company also won the Entrepreneurial Spirit award at the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards in 2019.

For more information on Lidl Northern Ireland’s commitment to sustainability visit www.abettertomorrow-lidl-ni.co.uk/

For more information on McCulla visit www.mcculla.co.uk