Thursday 22 March 2018

Clerys traders weigh cost of fighting liquidation process

Concession holders and their representatives at a meeting with solicitor Michael Lavelle (front row, second from left) at his office. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Concession holders and their representatives at a meeting with solicitor Michael Lavelle (front row, second from left) at his office. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

Traders owed nearly €1m from the closure of Clerys are weighing whether to oppose the confirmation of Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson as liquidators.

The High Court named the KPMG partners as joint provisional liquidators of the company that operated Clerys on June 12, but the appointments need to be confirmed by the court next Monday.

A group of 15 "concessionaires" who traded in the department store say they may try to block that confirmation, but face a potential legal bill of €20,000 if they opt to fight the case.

Siptu, which represents workers who lost jobs when Clerys was shut, had been expected to oppose the confirmation of the liquidators but it is understood the union will not now intervene, fearing it could delay redundancy payouts.

Natrium, the company which bought Clerys from Gordon Bros this month, moved swiftly to put OCS Operations Ltd, which ran Clerys, into liquidation.

The group of 15 mainly smaller concession holders in the department store are being represented by solicitor Michael Lavelle and met yesterday to discuss the crisis.

One of the main stumbling blocks for the group is thought to be the legal costs associated with trying to replace the liquidators with their own nominee. The traders are carrying an already huge financial cost. Keith Rogers, who is head of retail for shoe company Ecco, said his company had spent thousands of euro on shoes for the upcoming autumn season and would likely have to cut prices at other outlets as a result of the Clerys debacle.

"[The closure] is devastating to be honest. It affects different companies in different ways," Mr Rogers said. "We had 11 staff in Clerys, and while they have been re-employed, it does increase our costs."

He added: "In our case we bought thousands of shoes to sell in Clerys but now must be sold in other stores, and customers may benefit but at a cost to us." In a department store, concessions rely on the department store to manage their cash. The takings are then reimbursed to the concession at a later date, he said.

But Clerys closed down just before a payment was due to the concession holders, leaving them out of pocket on six weeks of takings. Several businesses are on the verge of going bust because of the Clerys debacle, Mr Rogers said.

Louise Hogan, who ran the "Nail Zone" concession, said she is looking for a new location in the city centre but time was running out to keep the business afloat. "When we eventually got the stock back last week, I had to store some of it in my car, only for it to be robbed," she said.

The closure of Clerys has had a brutal effect, she said. Her words were echoed by Mushiirah Umarlehah - the manager of the "Wink" eye salon in Clerys.

Irish Independent

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