Clerys department store reopens after flood

Refurbishment following flash flood damage took four months

Thu, Nov 21, 2013, 10:16

One of Europe’s oldest purpose-built department stores

reopens this morning four months after floods forced it to close its doors.

A 16-minute flash flood last July caused millions of euro of damage at Clerys on O’Connell Street in Dublin. Each floor of the 160-year-old store required refurbishment.

A small sign on the front shutters explaining that it was closed due to “water damage” gave little indication of the destruction wrought inside.

“I think people thought we’d just had a bit of a leak. I don’t think they were aware of just how extensive the damage was,” said managing director Dominic Prendergast.

The weight of water on the roof forced a steel girder to break through and resulted in between 400 and 500 gallons of water gushing through the building.

Ceilings, floors, lighting, electrics and stock were all damaged badly.

Given the destruction wrought, the refurbishment was completed very quickly, Mr Prendergast said.

“We wallowed in sorrow for 24 hours, then we got down to work and I think it has been monumental to achieve what we have in such a short period of time,” he said.

At first glance little has changed: cosmetics are still at the front of the ground floor, shoes at the back, homewares two floors up. But there have been some alterations.

The false ceiling on the ground floor has been removed as has the panelling at the sides of the escalators revealing architect Robert Atkinson’s 1922 interior. The escalators still obscure the view of the grand staircase.

All but two of the concessionaires – electrical retailer DID and Karen Millen – have returned to the store, Mr Prendergast said. There are 12 new fashion retailers and a branch of mobile phone company Carphone Warehouse.

After 71 years in the Guiney family, Clerys went into receivership last year following several years of poor trading and property investment losses. It was bought by Boston-based private equity group Gordon Brothers last year.

The store’s poor performance was in part attributed to the decline in O’Connell Street and the fact that, unlike Brown Thomas or Arnotts, Clerys is not on a “shopping street” but Mr Prendergast dismisses suggestions that the store is in the “wrong” place.

“We inherited a business that was negative in terms of sales but in the period of time that we were trading we took it into double digits positive.”

The cost of the refurbishment and the losses due to the four-month closure are not being disclosed by the company. Mr Prendergast said the focus is on getting Christmas shoppers back to the store.

“We have loyal customers,” he said. “The challenge for us now is to attract more of their sons, daughters and grandchildren to the store.”