Eason acquires rival Dubray Books for undisclosed sum

Dubray employs about 90 people, has annual sales of €9m, and makes profits of €700,000

Irish-owned bookseller Eason has acquired rival Dubray Books for an undisclosed sum, the companies announced on Tuesday.

Dubray was founded by Helen Clear in Bray in 1973. The business was subsequently acquired by her daughter Gemma and her late husband, Kevin Barry, in 1988. Dubray has been owned by the Barry family ever since.

Dubray employs approximately 90 people, has annual sales of more than €9 million and generates operating profits of about €700,000.

Under the ownership of the Barry family, the business continued to expand its operations, and comprises eight bookstores across the greater Dublin area and Galway.

No price for the deal was disclosed. Corporate finance sources said it probably traded at between five and six times its operating profit, which would put the deal within the range of €3.5 million to €4.2 million.

Founded in 1866, Eason is Ireland’s oldest book retailer. The acquisition of Dubray has been facilitated by the injection of €20 million of capital into the Eason & Son retail business by Eason shareholders in 2019.

In a statement, Eason said it has “long admired Dubray’s customer proposition as a specialist bookseller”, and said the transaction will make a “significant positive contribution” to its overall financial performance.

It intends to retain Dubray as a separate brand, along with its retail outlets in their current format.

Core categories

Eason will continue to develop its own retail offering, which serves a different customer profile, based on a broader product offering and five core categories that see a popular book range complemented by stationery, cards, gifts and newspapers and magazines.

Dubray will continue to operate in its current format as a stand-alone division within Eason under the Dubray brand.

The current Dubray management team, led by managing director Maria Dickenson, will continue to operate the Dubray stores.

Ms Dickenson will join the Eason executive team, working with the current members and the Eason Group chief executive Liam Hanly.

Ms Dickenson said the acquisition “will be positive” for the Irish book trade, ensuring Irish publishing “can continue to flourish”.

“Our new common ownership will strengthen our ability to continue supporting and promoting local talent while continuing to meet the needs of our existing loyal customers,” she said.

Mr Hanly said he was “delighted” to have completed the acquisition and that the coming together of Eason and Dubray “will help secure the future of two renowned Irish retail brands”.

“As a specialist book retailer, Dubray reaches a different customer audience to Eason and the brand will therefore complement the wider Eason offering,” he said.

‘Potential to grow’

“We are very excited by the potential to grow the Dubray business in conjunction with the continued development of the existing Eason retail offering in the coming years.”

Commenting on behalf of the Barry family, Gemma Barry said: “After nearly 50 years in business, the transition in ownership to Eason is a logical step for Dubray and it will secure the future of the Dubray brand as a specialist book retailer.”

Eason said the acquisition was consistent with its retail strategy to position its business for a sustainable future.

This, it said, includes a focus on repositioning its business to a “more specialised and consumer experience-led proposition, in the face of an evolving retail environment and trends, driven by changing consumer requirements and expectations”.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter