Saturday 19 August 2017

Clerys still selling €100 vouchers on its website - despite liquidation

Cerys Emily who worked at Clerys for 35 years with her daughter Natanya Mc Dermott who worked for eight years protest outside the closed store after a meeting in Liberty Hall at the weekend
Cerys Emily who worked at Clerys for 35 years with her daughter Natanya Mc Dermott who worked for eight years protest outside the closed store after a meeting in Liberty Hall at the weekend
A sign in the window of the closed store
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Any changes to the iconic Clerys department store will be decided by planning authorities - but experts say dozens of international retailers are already eying space in the building.

Sources told the Irish Independent that the new owners hope to refurbish the site - including by opening the rear of the building on to Marlborough Street, which is set for a major revamp thanks to a new Luas tram line that will connect the rear of the property with Grafton Street on the south of the city.

The idea is to develop space for large retailers as well as office and leisure facilities in the historic Clerys building.

The department store was dramatically shut on Friday, hours after being bought by new owners led by Irish investor Deirdre Foley's D2 Private.

They have remained tight-lipped about their plans for the site but the appointment of liquidators to the company that operated the store has been widely condemned because 460 people immediately lost their jobs.

Union officials representing hundreds of former workers at the store are looking for an urgent meeting with representatives of the Natrium consortium which now owns the department store.

Tanaiste Joan Burton described the treatment of workers, many with decades of service, as "absolutely despicable".

It emerged last night that Ms Burton has asked her officials to convene a briefing for the former employees to help them in securing their statutory benefits and to ensure they receive welfare assistance.

Separately, junior Labour minister Ged Nash will contact the liquidator to see if anything can be done for the workers.

Mr Nash has been in regular contact with unions and has decided to make contact with liquidator Kieran Wallace of KPMG to explore any avenues which may be of benefit to former staff workers.

Mr Nash and the Government are appalled by the treatment of the workers, who lost their jobs with little or no notice last Friday.

The store's website remains up-and-running - with no indication on it that Clerys is in liquidation. It is still possible to buy gift vouchers with values of up to €100 - even though customers with gift cards have no chance of getting their money back or buying goods.

The Irish Times is reporting this morning that Clerys was accepting large cash deposits for household goods as late as last week - with suggestions that one customer had handed over a €5,000 deposit recently.

But demand for space means the property itself should not remain idle for long, according to commercial property agent Neill Bannon.

A redeveloped Clerys could be the lynch-pin linking Grafton Street and Henry Street, he said.

Bannon's firm brought Zara and H&M to the South King Street retail area in Dublin, and he says large retail space in the city centre is in huge demand.

"I have more than 20 retailers who want to come into the city centre. There hasn't been a major shopping centre developed since the Jervis Centre in 1996," he said. The new Luas line will run up Marlborough Street behind Clerys and down O'Connell Street at the front.

Damian O'Reilly of the Dublin Institute of Technology, said a successful redevelopment of the Clerys property, with multiple stores, could ultimately generate around three times as many jobs as the department store model.

According to Mr Bannon, Clerys and neighbouring buildings are ideal for modern retailing but under-utilised. Redeveloping the city centre to connect Henry Street and Grafton Street would draw shoppers out of suburban centres and back into the city centre, he said.

Irish Independent

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