Carphone Warehouse to exit Republic, cutting almost 500 jobs

Footfall down 40% in past year, customers increasingly buying sim-free handsets, says firm

Carphone Warehouse staff have been informed of the decision, which had been expected in recent days. File photograph: The Irish Times

Carphone Warehouse staff have been informed of the decision, which had been expected in recent days. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Carphone Warehouse is to close more than 80 stores in the Republic, with almost 500 people to lose their jobs.

The company has 69 standalone and 12 stores within stores. A total of 486 redundancies are expected as a result of the move.

Staff have been informed of the decision, which had been expected in recent days, and the company’s website has also been shut down, effective immediately.

In a statement, parent company Dixons Carphone blamed changes in how people are shopping for the decision, saying it was “a necessary step” in the company’s mobile transformation.

“As part of the company’s broader transformation to one joined up and profitable business it has made the difficult but necessary decision to close Carphone Warehouse in Ireland, in line with its decision to close all standalone Carphone Warehouse stores in the UK in 2020,” the statement said.

Footfall in the stores has fallen more than 40 per cent in the past year, the company said, and customers are increasingly buying sim-free handsets.

The decision comes just over a month after Vodafone, the State’s largest mobile operator, said it was to stop selling phones or plans through the retailer. It also follows discussions with Eir over its future relationship, and comes after its parent company shuttered more than 530 stores across Britain last year with nearly 3,000 job losses.

Many of the group’s mobile phones services in Britain are now sold from Carphone Warehouse outlets located within Currys PC World stores as well as online. The chain opened its first Irish store in 1996, and agreed a £3.8 billion (€4.3 billion) merger with Dixons in 2014.

The decision is not expected affect its sister companies. Currys PC World has 10 stores locally.

Carphone Warehouse has served as a “one-stop shop” selling phones and plans on behalf of all the biggest mobile operators. The loss of Vodafone as a partner was a big blow to the company, as is the rise in popularity of budget mobile brands such as GoMo (Eir), 48 (Three) and Clear (Vodafone), which are not available through the retailer.

The retailer has had mixed success in the Republic, particularly in recent years. In 2018, it wound up its own mobile brand, iD Mobile, three years after it was launched after it failed to attract enough customers to be viable.

Pandemic effect

Carphone Warehouse invested €20 million in the brand amid plans to gain 5-6 per cent market share.

The company recorded turnover of €101.7 million in the 12 months to the end of April 2019 and a pretax loss of €1.5 million. It employed more than 580 people here at that time. However, as with other retailers, the company’s stores have largely stay closed over the past year due to the pandemic.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government would support the affected employees.

“This news will come as a major blow to Carphone Warehouse employees . . . I want them to know that the Government will make all necessary State assistance available to the workers . . . Government is working in a co-ordinated way, through the Retail Forum, and has committed unprecedented levels of financial aid to support retail businesses . . . and will continue to do so.”

Labour enterprise spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called on the Government to engage with staff and unions, and seek to re-employ workers within their community where possible.

“This is a huge blow for the staff . . . Government must intervene and ensure that there are education and training opportunities for the workers affected,” he said.

“Unemployment is out of control in this country. The projected unemployment rate of 16.25 per cent this year and 8.25 per cent in 2022 is really concerning and the Government seems hell bent on ignoring calls for targeted and focused training to enable people to upskill and keep focused on projects while the economy remains closed.”

Managing director of Retail Excellence Duncan Graham said the company’s decision to close the Irish stores “reflects the crisis in the retail landscape at present, due to a combination of both Covid-19 and Brexit”.