Business Irish

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Brown Thomas gets ready to throw party for shoppers as it moves BT2 to make room for Victoria's Secret

BT managing director Stephen Sealey
BT managing director Stephen Sealey
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Brown Thomas is to throw a 'pop-up' retail party for customers as it surrenders the lease of its popular offshoot BT2 on Dublin's Grafton Street to Victoria's Secret, the premium American lingerie retailer.

The Brown Thomas Group, which has just completed a three-year, €25m investment cycle, is closing its Grafton St BT2 store on August 29 next, ahead of the launch of its €2m 'replatformed' website in September.

BT2 Dundrum and Blanchardstown will continue to trade as normal. However, brands stocked in BT2 on Grafton Street, including Self Portrait, Maje, COS and Adidas, will migrate to the group's flagship store, which is undergoing a second floor refit that will add 7,500 square feet of retail space for fashion.

Stephen Sealey, managing director of the Brown Thomas Group, said that an interim or pop-up outlet, 'The Brand Store', will be opened on its BT2 site, pending the expiry of the lease on the building in January next year.

"The Brand Store will contain a collection of labels on sale at outlet prices," said Sealey, who added Ireland's retail market remains "fragile".

Sealey said the temporary outlet store will serve as a "going away party experience" for BT2 customers.

"We're bringing it all back home on Grafton Street, but the BT2s in Dundrum and Blanchardstown go from strength to strength."

Paul Kelly, managing director (Ireland) of the Selfridges Group, which last year finalised the acquisition of the Arnotts department store, was instrumental in securing the transfer of the BT2 lease to Victoria's Secret.

It is not yet known what synergies or efficiencies the Weston family-owned Selfridges Group may seek to achieve with its ownership of both Brown Thomas and Arnotts.

Sealey said that the Brown Thomas Group has had a successful year to date despite economic uncertainty surrounding the formation of the Government and the June decision by Britain to leave the European Union.

"The majority of our brands are European brands that are bought in euros," said Sealey, adding that sudden price movements linked to Brexit could cause distress to retailers.

Sealey said that the Government must deal with businesses "trapped in boomtime leases" and added that Ireland's VAT rate, combined with marginal tax rates, is proving too onerous for many retailers. "To my mind it [the VAT rate] should be below 20pc," he said.

Sealey also said that BT supports the pedestrianisation of Grafton Street and the "short-term pain" of ongoing Luas works, but cautioned easy, direct access to car parks must be maintained. "Retail and, by extension, jobs, are still dependent on the car-borne shopper," he said, adding that Dublin needs an underground transport system to support population growth.

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