Tuesday 28 March 2017

Much-loved clothes shop is back in fashion

McElhinney's staff members Noleen Ward, left, and Catherine Keane arrange the womenswear display before the store re-opening today. JAMES FLYNN
McElhinney's staff members Noleen Ward, left, and Catherine Keane arrange the womenswear display before the store re-opening today. JAMES FLYNN

Michael McHale

THE recession forced it to close its doors but yesterday an Irish fashion institution bucked the trend and reopened.

Women's clothes shop McElhinney Fashions, of Athboy, Co Meath, closed on June 5 last after a winding-up application from one of its creditors.

But the iconic store is now back in business thanks to a new agreement with Irish fashion distributors Flairline, which will see all the 56 staff who lost their jobs last month return to work.

"The agreement we have with Flairline is seen as a long-term one. We're hoping it'll be at least five years with a view to making it 20 years," current owner Neal Sweeney, whose grandmother Molly McElhinney opened the shop in 1937, said last night.

"A lot of our existing staff would have trained under my grandmother from 1960 to when she retired in 1988. At least 35 of the staff would have worked under Molly, while our longest-serving employee has been working here for 48 years.

"There's been lots of preparation over the weekend in cleaning up the store, getting new cash registers and equipment. The staff came in voluntarily."

As part of the new deal, Flairline will take over the purchasing of all stock for McElhinneys while sharing a percentage of turnover with the Meath retailer. Mr Sweeney will continue to run the business.

The clothes distributor, run by Sean Barron and his sons and founded in 1970, also works with fashion lines Richard Alan, Pamela Scott, Ashley Reeves and Lisa Perkins, as well as 300 Irish boutique stores.

"We know we're going to have a rough nine months to a year with the business, but we have reduced our debts with the bank and we're keeping our cost margins very tight to our business plan," Mr Sweeney added.

For more than 70 years the store has been known for its bargains, with women coming from around the country to shop for dresses for Communions, Confirmations and weddings.

McElhinney's reopens at 9.30am with a drinks reception and the announcement of its annual summer sale.

Irish Independent

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