Victoria’s Secret is out. The US’s most famous women’s lingerie company is in advanced discussions to replace BT2 in one of the most prominent stores on Dublin’s Grafton Street.
Victoria’s Secret is in pole position to lease the extensive shopping facility having been chosen from a number of international fashion houses interested in taking over the store. A spokeswoman for Brown Thomas said on Tuesday, however, that “no deal has been signed”.
Victoria’s Secret has already had a major impact on the UK market where annual sales of women’s underwear exceed £2 billion (€2.6 billion). To broaden its appeal in the European market, it moved its annual lingerie fashion show to London’s Earls Court a year ago where the models with super-toned figures showed they were in a different league to those who represent high fashion labels. It was the most watched fashion event in the world, attracting 500 million viewers in 192 countries.
There were also plenty of critics who argued that the brand did not cater for heavier women who wanted to feel attractive irrespective of their size. No one is expecting a change in policy for the brand which, according to the experts, is too big to fail.
Victoria’s Secret has been operating a store in Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport for more than a year where the range of products includes a variety of leisure wear, fragrances, body care products, cosmetics, scarves, sunglasses and fashion bags, as well as the world famous lingerie. A new outlet on Grafton Street should have a substantially broader appeal and could be expected to attract considerably more young shoppers.
BT2, a sister company to Ireland’s most famous department store, is located relatively close to Brown Thomas on the opposite side of Grafton Street. The choice of Victoria’s Secret for the new trading position could well minimise the direct impact of the business on the Brown Thomas turnover.
If the store was to be passed on to one of the concession brands in Brown Thomas, the effects could well be considerably greater, according to one retail expert. It is not known whether the recent purchase of Arnotts department store by Canadian billionaire Galen Weston of Brown Thomas is likely to have any implications for BT2.
Other BT2 outlets in Dundrum and Blanchardstown are believed to be trading exceptionally well and are unlikely to be affected by the possible closure of the Grafton Street branch. Otherwise, there is a considerable optimism in the Irish fashion industry about sales growth after successful trading in the run-up to Christmas and in the January sales.
BT2 is expected to secure compensation of close to €1.5 million from owners IPUT for surrendering its lease of the Grafton Street building.
IPUT has apparently agreed in principle to grant the American company a new long-term lease at a rent of close to €2 million. The current rent of €1.2 million had been due to be reviewed later this year.
With its reputation for opulence and extravagance, Victoria’s Secret is expected to carry out a major refurbishment and restyling of the Grafton Street block before its grand launch early next year. The new trader will have about 1,858sq m (20,000sq ft) of retail space at ground, basement and first-floor level as well as about 929sq m (10,000sq ft) of storage on the two upper levels which is currently used as offices by Brown Thomas.
The BT2 building was acquired by IPUT from the ESB Pension Fund around 2012 for about € 20 million as part a larger transfer of property investments to the fund. The planned letting to Victoria's Secret will be seen as masterstroke by the fund which now owns nine retail investment properties on Grafton Street worth €150 million.