Upmarket retailer Waitrose has remained coy over reports it is close to opening its first store in Northern Ireland.

The grocer is understood to have “well-advanced” plans in place that will see it open its first store within two years, according to The Belfast Telegraph. The group is said to be considering sites in Holywood primarily, Belfast, Ballymena, Coleraine and Lisburn.

Confirmation of the move is expected to be announced in the coming months, sources told the publication.

A spokesperson for Waitrose, however, told just-food the group is “keen” to open stores in Northern Ireland but that “no firm plans” had yet been put into action.

An official statement from Waitrose said: “We’ve always held long-term aspirations to bring Waitrose to Northern Ireland but we have no further plans at the moment.”

If Waitrose were to enter the market, it would be competing against major players including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda.