Glasgow-based retailer Sports Connection is to open its first stores in Ireland with sites planned for Belfast, Londonderry and Ballymena. Further properties in the Republic of Ireland have been found.

The retail business, which launched a transactional website last June, is also developing its Bear USA and Ecko clothing ranges, which it says are outselling major brands, such as Nike and Adidas.

Managing director Paul Stern said: "Sales over the past few months have been very encouraging and we are determined to use that as a springboard for even stronger figures in the future."

Privately-owned Sports Connection claims sales were up 16.5 per cent in the six-week Christmas period to January 7, and like-for-likes increased 7.2 per cent.

Sales for the 23 weeks to February 4 were up 14.3 per cent, and like-for-likes rose 6.2 per cent.