Covid-19 precautions drive up costs at Dunnes Stores

Group’s businesses in Northern Ireland lost €1.1m in 2019

Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd owns the group’s shops in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd owns the group’s shops in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Covid-19 precautions are driving up costs at Dunnes Stores, directors say in a report showing the group’s business in Northern Ireland lost €1.1 million in 2019.

Taxes and foreign exchange losses left Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd, which owns the group’s shops in Northern Ireland, with a £1 million sterling (€1.11 million) deficit for the 12 months to December 28th 2019, recently filed accounts show.

The directors’ report accompanying the accounts states that Covid-19 is having a material impact on the group’s business, “and we are incurring significant additional costs implementing social distancing measures in our retail stores”.

Dunnes is one of Ireland’s biggest department store chains, selling food, household goods, clothes and other products.

Essential parts of these businesses, including its supermarkets, stayed open during lockdowns imposed by the State in a bid to contain the virus.

Directors Francis Dunne, Margaret Heffernan, Anne Heffernan and Sharon McMahon say it is not possible to quantify Covid’s impact on the group, but add that they to not expect it to hit the group’s ability to continue as a going concern.

“The group’s balance sheet is robust with strong cash flow and no external financing,” they say, indicating that Dunnes Stores group does not have significant bank borrowing.

“The directors are monitoring events closely, evaluating the impacts and designing appropriate response strategies in the prevailing circumstances,” they add.

Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd is a subsidiary of the unlimited Dunnes Holding Company, which is not obliged to file accounts. Along with stores in the north, it was also responsible the group’s outlets in Britain, which closed in 2018.

Sales at the subsidiary grew almost 6 per cent to £113.6 million in the 12 months ended December 28th 2019, accounts show.

A foreign exchange loss of £1.4 million and a tax payment of £366,000 left the company with a £1 million deficit for the period, against a £1.6 million profit for the 12 months ended December 29th 2018. Net assets stood at £53.2 million in December 2019.

Dunnes Store (Bangor) paid its 1,097 workers £14.58 million and £862,000 in welfare contributions during 2019.

The company says it paid a £115,000 dividend to other group entities during the year, less than a quarter of the £481,000 payment made in 2018.