TWO new stores are set to open on St Patrick’s Street this week in a welcome boost to Cork City centre’s vacillating fortunes.
The North Face, outdoor clothing and equipment specialists, will open today at No 39 St Patrick’s Street, at the brand’s first dedicated store in Munster, while UK footwear brand Dune London is due to open next door.
In the suburbs, final preparations are underway for the opening of Frasers at the former Debenhams’ unit in the lower mall at Mahon Point Shopping Centre.
Tim Deasy, one of the trio who acquired the franchise for The North Face brand, said they received 650 job applications over two days from people seeking to work at the new premises.
The new store will provide employment for up to 20 people, with a mix of part-time and full-time positions. It will stock outdoor clothing for men, women and children, with the men’s range on the 2,500 sq ft ground floor and both ladies’ clothing and footwear on the first floor. Mr Deasy and fellow-directors Ron Lehane and Richard Deasy (Tim’s brother), have taken a 10-year lease on the 7,400 sq ft, four-storey premises, with retail on the first two floors, storage on the second floor and the third floor currently unused. Annual rent is at a level less than the €275,000 pa originally quoted, with Bannon Commercial acting on behalf of Mr Deasy.
Mr Deasy, who also holds the whole-of-Ireland franchise for Timberland, with a shop on Grand Parade, said they will be stocking everything from “basic outdoor gear, to mountaineering wear, to summit wear”, but not tents or sleeping bags.
He said he was delighted to be opening a store on St Patrick’s Street and in such a central position, surrounded by established retailers like booksellers and stationers Eason who recently relocated to Nos 35-36 from 113-115 St Patrick’s Street; as well as jewellery store Pandora, new neighbour Dune London and across-the-road from fashion brands Superdry and Tommy Hilfiger.
The arrival of Dune London will cement ground floor retail in the block, where vacant units had been a feature during the pandemic. Dune London has taken the entire 270 sq m building at No 38, in a deal brokered by Lia Dennehy of Savills.
“For us, given the choice between Mahon Point Shopping Centre and the city centre, we’d have to go with the city centre because everyone comes here, but not everyone goes to Mahon Point,” Mr Deasy said.
Meanwhile, at Mahon Point Shopping Centre, fit-out activity is continuing on the largest unit in the lower Mall, also vacated by a Debenhams store in 2020.
House of Fraser (Frasers) is due to open there shortly, having just opened a store in the Whitewater Shopping Centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare, which has been described as “closer to BT’s (Brown Thomas) than Debenhams”. The Kildare venue is also a former Debenhams store, owned by German fund Deka, which also owns the Mahon Point premises.
The luxury lifestyle store, on the Mahon Point mall underneath Sports Direct, will host a range of beauty, fashion, premium and contemporary accessories, designer childrenswear, as well as a “world-class” beauty hall, according to Frasers.
Frasers Group is currently run by British billionaire businessman Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct, who bought House of Fraser out of administration in 2018 and rebranded as Frasers Group. It marked his entry to the department store industry. The Frasers Group has also been mentioned in connection with the bidding process to fill vacant former Debenhams stores in both St Patrick Street and Henry Street in Dublin, with the Henry Street premises believed to be the more likely venue. The Cork store is on the market for €20m and the Dublin store has a €55m guide price.
The Irish Examiner recently reported that more than five parties were vying for the Cork store but it’s understood the field has now narrowed, with one source saying a contract had gone out. One of the more recent names to surface in connection with the bidding process is that of Ballybunion Capital, founded by Cahir entrepreneur/asset manager/ solicitor, Patrick O’Sullivan. Ballybunion Capital was acquired by the UK-based JTC Group last year.
The O’Flynn Group has also confirmed that it looked at the 151,000 sq ft property, formerly Roches Stores, but has declined to say if it is still involved. Paddy McKillen/Tony Leonard-controlled Clarendon Properties has said it is “not involved”. Other possible contenders are John Cleary Developments (JCD) who have form in the city centre and O’Callaghan Properties (OCP).
Meanwhile a planned expansion of the nearby Penney’s store is on hold after an appeal was lodged with An Bord Pleánala, with a decision not now due until early next year.
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