New Arnotts owners deny any plans to create Brown Thomas on capital's northside
Hilary Weston will no doubt be delighted to see that the family's Selfridge Group have acquired the iconic Arnotts department store in her native city.
Growing up in Terenure, the Frayne family probably shopped at the department store, like most of the denizens of Dublin. Famous for its Santa and its white goods offering, Arnotts' 1894 fire was even immortalised by James Joyce in 'Ulysses'.
Interestingly, Arnotts was back in business within five days of the fire, with a temporary store in the Round room of the Rotunda, and it's that very type of tenacious, go-get-it retailing that would appeal no end to Hilary's husband, Canadian magnate, Galen Weston. He famously bought Brown Thomas in Grafton Street as a present for Hilary in 1971, just as his father had given his mother the Fortnum & Mason food store early in their marriage.
Nostalgia aside, Weston is an eagle-eyed business man who heads up the world's second-largest luxury goods retailer group with Holt Renfrew in Canada, the Selfridges Group, Brown Thomas here and the De Bijenkorf department store chain in the Netherlands.
In their announcement this week, Selfridges expressed "how excited they were about the opportunity to build on the Arnotts brand and unique identity and to establish the Arnotts store as the premium department store in Ireland."
Their intention is not to create a Brown Thomas on the northside but to cherish Arnotts' unique heritage stretching back 170 years.
Paul Kelly, managing director of Selfridges Group and chairman of ARHL (ARHL Retail Holdings Limited), the parent company of Arnotts told the Irish Independent: "Our approach in Selfridges Group is that whatever the customer cares about, we care about and we achieve this with world-class customer service and by constantly reinventing everything we do and championing the things that matter for the customer.
"That's the approach we will be taking with Arnotts and we hope customers will see and feel the difference. But it's not going to happen overnight. It will take time."
Retail consultant, Eddie Shanahan described the Selfridge announcement as "a very positive, development in Irish retailing, for the staff, suppliers and for consumers.
"It now brings stability backed by probably the most experienced retail team in the world. I would imagine that Paul Kelly will want it (Arnotts) to be snapping at Brown Thomas' heels and keeping everybody on their toes. And rightly so. They are both very good businesses and I think the potential of Arnotts will now be realised once again."