A large independent retailer which operates 19 stores across Northern Ireland – 11 locally – has secured a significant financial package from Ulster Bank to support it during the coronavirus crisis.
S.D. Kells is a family-run clothing retailer which operates stores in Armagh, Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge and Newry.
The loan has been agreed with the bank through the UK Government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
The retailer started as a small draper’s shop on Main Street in Lisnaskea and now operates 19 stores across Northern Ireland, employing around 170 staff.
It’s one of a growing number of businesses across Northern Ireland that has experienced significant disruption to cash flow as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Owned and managed by the Kells family, the business has been trading since 1928 and specialises in affordable menswear, womenswear, school uniforms and children’s clothing lines. It also offers a wedding and formalwear hire service and stocks a range of affordable beds, mattresses and linens.
Managing Director Ian Kells says the loan is a lifeline for the business and its staff.
“Turnover has halted yet expenses carry on,” he said. “This is the reality for our business and many others across Northern Ireland.
“By delivering this loan Ulster Bank has provided us with a vital lifeline that will protect the jobs of dedicated colleagues across all of our stores and plug the gap until it’s safe to resume normal trading, whenever that may be.
“Every day presents a new challenge”, he explains. “These are difficult times for all businesses and unfortunately we’ve also had to respond to sudden unexpected events too.”
Earlier this month the retailer’s flagship premises on Bedford Street in Belfast city centre was targeted in a burglary.
“We’re committed to successfully navigating this crisis,” Ian adds, “and Ulster Bank has delivered the resources to facilitate that.”
Nigel Walsh, Director, Corporate & Commercial Banking, Ulster Bank, commented: “We’re extremely pleased to support Ian and the team at S.D. Kells through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, one of many businesses across Northern Ireland we’re providing additional support to during these difficult times.
“This family business has played a central role in the economic fabric of towns and cities across Northern Ireland for almost a century, and Ulster Bank is proud to have supported the business throughout that journey.
“There is an understandable sense of trepidation among business owners, but we’re committed to serving the needs of local businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. Our teams are working hard to deliver a wide range of sustainable support measures and we’re engaging proactively with customers to outline the support available to them.”