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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Tale of our times: Waterstone's reaches a sad final chapter as bookstores close

Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

Another week and another raft of retail closures across Ireland but there has been particular regret about the loss of one of Dublin's best bookshops -- Waterstone's of Dawson Street.

It's among 11 Waterstone's book shops to close in Britain and Ireland, including the other major Dublin outlet in the Jervis Centre on the northside.

For book buyers -- and we are still among the most voracious readers in Europe -- the closure of the literary sanctuary not far from the Mansion House has a particular resonance.

It's being seen not just a retail failure but an attack on the quality of life.

There's been a five-day wake at the bookshop since the announcement was made, with the store packed with wellwishers who came to take one last browse among the bookshelves.

Bookseller Ciaran Milton said the closure came as a huge shock.

"We have been overwhelmed by people's kindness. People have been coming in especially to see us. The store has been crammed with people and a lot of people have come in just to express their sympathy. We have had customers in tears and we have been receiving cards with unbelievably lovely messages and gifts. It's been very emotional for staff but it has also been emotional for the customers," he says.

Roughly 30 people were employed in the Dawson Street branch and today is the last day of trading.

Staff have been offered the prospect of redeployment to some stores in Britain and in Amsterdam but the offer was regarded as unrealistic by many members of staff.

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Waterstone's had a very low turnover of staff over the years and many of the workers had been working in the branch since it opened, Mr Milton added.

"Most of us have been working here for years and there is very much a family feel to it. The issues seem to be more about the parent company, HMV, which is going through some changes at the moment. There is also the issue of leases and upward-only rents, which is major issue for the company.

"People are still trying to work out 'what next'. It will be redundancy for most and those details are still being worked out," he said.

Waterstone's said the closures would not affect the company's remaining six stores in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The closures follow the collapse of booksellers Hughes and Hughes just over a year ago -- ironic given Ireland's new title as a UNESCO City of Literature.

There were other business casualties last week, including the Sunday Tribune newspaper, which has gone into receivership. The paper will not be on the newsstands today after a decision was taken that it would not be published during its four-week period of receivership.

The receiver, Jim Luby of McStay Luby, attributed the decision not to publish to issues connected with securing libel insurance for the period of the receivership.

Meanwhile, the latest consumer sentiment survey shows that the national mood improved slightly in January.

New car purchases and sales of big ticket items soared but Retail Excellence Ireland warned that the underlying performance was very weak.

The agency says that at least 400 stores had closed last month. Three boutiques had closed in Mullingar, Co Offaly, alone, and that experience was being matched all around the country.

Sunday Independent

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