Hugh Kennedy, MD of Northern Irish independent retailer Curley's, has a hectic couple of years ahead of him. Not only is he doubling the size of the Curley's supermarket in his Kennedy Shopping Centre in west Belfast, but he has ambitious plans to develop a largely non food retail park in ­Dungannon to complement its existing Oaks Shopping Centre in the town.

Work has already started on phase one of the £15m development of the Kennedy Centre, by which its existing Curley's will expand from 30,000 sq ft to 60,000 sq ft.

The expansion is part of a wider move to extend the entire shopping centre and allow space for more units but will also enable Curley's to sell a broader range of non food lines.

Meanwhile the 16 other Curley's stores located across the province continue to trade vigorously and feature a mix of superstores, forecourts and Winecellars.

"The development of the Belfast centre will make it much bigger," he says. "It will focus on non food products in Curley's that we don't have at the moment, as we want to get more into non food. The kind of items we will be selling are electrical products as well as CDs, DVDs and garden products - similar to the Tesco and Asda ranges."

The company has also put expansion into non food at the heart of plans to expand its operations in Dungannon, with a retail park with non food warehouse units being created adjacent to its Oaks Shopping Centre.

Although Curley's may be following in the multiples' footsteps with non food, there are some ­issues where it has been leading the way for some time.

Considering the impact of its ­activities on the environment is an important concern for Curley's.

"We do recycle our plastic bags," Kennedy says. "We take them back from customers and recycle them, as well as all our plastic and cardboard. We have been doing that for about five or six years now and have just recently started collecting the bags from customers to recycle."

But plastic bags and cardboard are not the only materials Curley's recycles. "We recycle all our heat that comes from our refrigerators and use it to heat the hot water for the supermarkets," Kennedy says.

"It's something that's been done very recently and is a new initiative. Our off-licences have walk-in chilled rooms with motion detectors instead of fridges, so when a customer goes in the lights go on, meaning they're not burning all the time. We're just looking at reducing the amount of energy we use."

Curley's also uses low-energy light bulbs and wind-powered electricity. Kennedy says: "This is important and we're doing our best."

Kennedy says work will start on a second retail park in Dungannon, 40 miles from Belfast, later this year. Kennedy wants to open up the site he has secured to other retailers and use it as a base to sell homewares, such as carpets and sofas. "We bought an old crystal factory and want to turn it into a retail park," he says. "We bought it a long time ago but didn't do anything with it and want to demolish it and rebuild on the site. We want to sell lines such as carpets and furniture, in the same way as other retail parks, and hope that work will start sometime next year."

Nor does he see the arrival of Asda in the west Belfast area earlier this year as any threat to his expansion plans. In fact he maintains that it has had a positive effect on business.

"We were apprehensive about them coming here initially, but our sales have increased," Kennedy says. "It's bringing more people to this area and it's not doing us any harm at all. In fact, our sales are up about 4% year-on-year."

There has not even been any call for flashy new marketing campaigns to counter the competition, says Kennedy. Instead he has let the ­Curley's name and products speak for themselves. "We haven't had a big advertising push this year," he says. "It's prices and products that people want and that's what works for us."

And if he can keep that focus as he continues to develop Curley's, there's every reason that his hard work in west Belfast and Dungannon will pay off.n