A Co Down sports retailer has scored a major business goal after buying a Scottish rival in a six-figure deal.
McMurray Sports, which operates the Total Hockey website as well as a shop in Banbridge, has acquired hockey equipment seller Gilmour Sports for an undisclosed sum.
The investment, which was backed by Ulster Bank, will involve McMurray Sports buying Gilmour Sports' online store, as well as its shop in Dublin.
And the deal is expected to create a number of new jobs. Gilmour Sports describes itself as an independent, family-owned sports retailer and "one of Europe's leading field hockey specialists".
McMurray Sports, which specialises in hockey equipment, is run by brothers Alan and Steven.
The company started out as a drapers shop in Bridge Street, Banbridge, which traded for around 80 years.
But from 2001, the brothers started to specialise in selling hockey equipment at the family business, and set up a website after working with Belfast tech firm Export Technologies.
Now Total Hockey is selling to foreign markets including Japan and the US.
Ulster Bank said the latest acquisition will enable McMurray Sports to grow its business in Great Britain as well as into Europe.
Steven McMurray said: "Gilmour Sports is a strong brand with a strong customer-base in Scotland and England, as well as in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere in Europe.
"We are experiencing ongoing organic growth, but we feel that this acquisition will put us in a very strong position in some key markets.
"We are very grateful for the backing we have received from Ulster Bank who have supported the family business for many years and have provided us outstanding expertise and assistance."
DJ Wilson, business development manager at Ulster Bank, said: "McMurray Sports is a long-standing Ulster Bank client that we have been pleased to support over a number of decades.
"Alan and Steven's vision opened up a new opportunity for the company in terms of online sales of hockey equipment and this latest investment will see them further develop that part of the business."
In 2015, Total Hockey bought Lisburn rival Sports Dock, and last year, the company snapped up a 49% share in a London-based sports retailer, Hockey Centre in Woking.
The company has also been able to make use of social media advertising, particularly Facebook.
By Margaret Canning