Friday 23 March 2018

'Anglo Arnotts' goes back to basics

Maeve Sheehan goes behind the clothes rails to find out what our zombie bank is doing investing in a flagship department store

ON Wednesday morning, the new American boss of Arnotts stepped out of the boardroom and into the staff room of the iconic Dublin department store to address the assembled employees. It was close to 9am and Mark Schwartz, high-flying investment banker and retail troubleshooter, had just a few minutes before the landmark store on Dublin's Henry Street would open. Schwartz kept it snappy. He introduced himself as Arnotts' new chairman with a simple message for staff: from now on the store would steer clear of grandiose visions of retail splendour -- such as the ill-fated Northern Quarter dreamt up by his predecessors -- to focus on traditional, back-to-basics retailing.

"Basically he said that from now on all the board's attention and his attention was going to be on the retail business," said Linda Tanham, of the trade union, Mandate, which represents most of the 950 staff. "He believed it was a good business and that staff were a very important part of the business; they were the first people customers met when they walked through the door. He said he was going to keep an open-door policy and he was not going to be 'just a figurehead'."

Although Tanham wasn't there herself, Schwartz phoned the union leader afterwards to brief her, demonstrating that his new "open-door" policy wasn't just hot air.

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