Irish fashion chain A-wear has edged a step closer to opening stores in Britain by hiring a property agency to search for potential sites.

A-Wear, which was bought by British venture capital firm Alchemy Partners for 70 million (£52.8 million) last May, is understood to have hired UK property company King Sturge.

The affordable womenswear retailer is searching for shopping-centre sites in locations such as Bluewater in Kent, Westfield London in White City, Trafford Centre in Manchester and Cabot Circus in Bristol.

A source close to A-Wear said that the retailer will compete with the likes of Zara and H&M, but will do well in Britain. He said: “In Ireland, A-Wear is mostly in shopping centres. It will give the other international brands a run for their money if it can develop a following in Britain.”

A-Wear has 25 stores in the Republic of Ireland, two in Northern Ireland and one concession in Selfridges in Birmingham.

Prior to the sale, previous owner Galen Weston, who also owns the Brown Thomas Group, was understood to have laid out plans for it to expand from Ireland into Britain as Primark did.

A-Wear declined to comment.