Business management

How a global lifestyle franchise is expanding in Northern Ireland

Franchising success story MINISO is drawing in shoppers.

When two franchise-business owners were looking to diversify their holdings, they turned to lifestyle retailer MINISO - and brought a new global brand to Northern Ireland. Since then, they have brought two stores to the area, with plans for several more in the future.

A design-led, lifestyle shop for all the family, MINISO offers a wide range of toys, tech, stationery, accessories, homeware, food and cosmetics at affordable prices. It currently operates over 4,000 stores in more than 90 countries worldwide.

As part of a major expansion, supported by Ulster Bank, the franchising partnership of Stuart Dixon and Trevor Finlay opened MINISO stores in Belfast and Ballymena in 2023, and they now plan to open three more locations in Northern Ireland by 2025, creating up to 45 new jobs.

Growth potential

Stuart and Trevor say it’s been an exciting journey, introducing a new high-growth brand and retail concept to their local market.

“We believe the MINISO brand can help to revitalise the local retail space, and the team at Ulster Bank have been really supportive of that vision,” says Trevor. “MINISO is a retail destination that strikes the right balance between offering the affordability and product range people want, with a memorable consumer experience to drive return custom and footfall.”

Stuart adds: “The response to the opening of our Belfast branch was one of resounding success. It has paved the way for the opening of our second store in Ballymena and given us the confidence to press forward with plans to expand the store network across Northern Ireland.”

MINISO opened its second NI store, in Ballymena’s Tower Centre, following a six-figure investment creating 15 new jobs. It came just four months after the retailer opened its first store in Northern Ireland in early May, in Belfast’s CastleCourt shopping centre.

Stuart says: “When we first encountered the MINISO brand on a site visit to London, we knew Northern Ireland needed this, and the opening of our new Ballymena store just four months after first introducing the brand to the market demonstrates the appetite among consumers for something fresh. We’re fully committed to opening three more stores by 2025, but we see great growth potential beyond that too.”

Franchising support

The launch of the MINISO brand in Northern Ireland is not Trevor and Stuart’s first foray into the franchise business model. They first met in 2007 when Stuart was a store manager for CeX – the second-hand electronics and entertainment specialist – and Trevor was exploring a franchise opportunity with the company.

With Stuart’s knowledge of the business, alongside Trevor’s business acumen, the pair would soon become partners and open their first joint venture in Derry. Today, the business partners operate 10 CeX stores across Northern Ireland, having most recently invested in a second Bangor store in Bloomfield shopping centre in July last year.

Our Director for Franchise, Kate Pullen, adds: “It’s great to see Trevor and Stuart’s vision for MINISO becoming a reality, and the new stores represent an exciting development in the local retail landscape. It’s the kind of project our franchising managers around the UK are happy to support.”

Leona McNicholl, Senior Relationship Manager in Ulster Bank’s Commercial Banking team, who supported the expansion, adds: “Stuart and Trevor have intimate knowledge of the retail sector in Northern Ireland and really understand the needs of the high street and shopping centre retailing.

“The launch of MINISO is testament to their foresight and drive – they’ve identified a high-growth, fast-paced concept that is strongly suited to the market.”

Are you interested in starting or developing a franchise business? Consider visiting our franchising hub for more information and support.

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