Monday 19 August 2019

Dunnes Stores moves on vacant sites after retailers' backlash

Irish group now selling or leasing several vacant sites in key town locations

'It is understood that Dunnes has strict criteria for potential tenants to ensure they are not taken over by competitors.' Stock image
'It is understood that Dunnes has strict criteria for potential tenants to ensure they are not taken over by competitors.' Stock image
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

A number of vacant stores owned by Dunnes Stores are being sold or leased out by the Irish retail giant.

Dunnes had come under heavy criticism for many years for its ownership of large vacant premises in key locations in towns around the country. It has also clashed with authorities over attempts to place some stores on the vacant sites register.

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However, an apparent move to lease or sell a number of vacant sites has been welcomed by retailers.

It is understood that Dunnes has strict criteria for potential tenants to ensure they are not taken over by competitors. A lease for a former Dunnes Stores premises in Tralee, Co Kerry, is currently on the market and it is understood that fast-expanding Danish furniture retailer Jysk is in talks about taking over the store.

Dunnes has also sold a former store in Nenagh in Co Tipperary to a private investor. In April, Dunnes agreed to sell a site to the University of Limerick (UL). Dunnes sold the 5,500sq m former shopping centre at Sarsfield Street for €8m, paving the way for the development of a UL City Campus.

The centre was closed by Dunnes in 2008 and in January, the company won a High Court order halting moves to place it on the vacant sites register.

Last November, Dunnes Stores sold a 1.26-acre site near its Cornelscourt store in Dublin for around €32m. It too had been at the centre of a row over the vacant sites register.

Dunnes challenged a decision by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to place the site on the register.

Dunnes has also let out a premises in Wexford to pharmacy chain Boots in the past 18 months.

David Fitzsimons, CEO of Retail Excellence, said: "This is a very welcome development in context of the revival of towns around the country. In the past these vacant sites were a drag on town centres so this is a very positive development."

He had previously accused Dunnes Stores of 'choking' development by keeping sites vacant.

In 2017 Fitzsimons told the Seanad that the retail giant had left several units empty in towns across the country, after vacating them to move its operations to buildings on the outskirts of towns.

He praised local councils for their efforts in relation to vacant sites, in particular Wexford county manager Tom Enright.

Dunnes Stores did not answer queries from the Sunday Independent.

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