Famous Belfast Stores: Brands and Normans

An extensive and prestigious chain of Belfast stores

Tom Brand, a property developer, and his wife Margaret, a milliner, established the Brands stores in Belfast at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Initially the shop consisted of a building in Queen’s Arcade off Donegall Place, later moving to the Ulster Arcade. That shop was destroyed in the 1941 blitz and not restored. It was then united with another Brands store, Normans at Castle Lane, becoming Brands and Normans. It held regular fashion shows in the coffee shop, the Tuesday Room. The Louis Feraud collection was exclusive to Brands in Northern Ireland, and the knitwear by Point, semi-exclusive.

Tom Brand also brought Riddell’s shop in Donegall Place in 1928 and converted it into Brands Arcade, running from Donegall Place to Fountain Street, with small shops on the ground floor and offices and wholesale premises on the upper floors. The Arcade temporarily changed its name to Birdcage Walk. A variety of shops, such as Aletta Young, Vera Boam, the Gift Shop and the Shoe Shop were all part of the Brand group. The family also owned men’s outfitters Moore and Wood at Donegall Place.

In 1983, the Castle Lane store transferred to larger premises to become Brands of Brands Arcade in Fountain Street. The company said that it was looking forward ‘to the development at the new premises of relaxed and elegant shopping space.’

The Castle Lane store was demolished, and there was hope of some archaeological finds, as it was said to be on the site of Arthur Chichester’s house.

Financial trouble began with the fulfilment of the late Tom Brand’s death duties. The 1983 renovation costs, high interest rates and a general recession worsened the situation. In 1989, joint managing directors Paddy and Peter Brand made the difficult decision to close the business. Some members of staff had been with the company for 50 years and felt like part of the family. The News Letter claimed, ‘when the doors of Brands at Fountain Place in Belfast close at the end of September it will be like closing the doors to a way of life.’

Further Reading:
Buildings of Belfast, 1700-1914 (1985) by CEB Brett.