Pamela Scott: a homespun retail dynasty fights on
Accounts show retailer is still loss-making on an operating basis despite growing sales
After more than 40 years in business Pamela Scott is still flying the flag for indigenous retailers on Grafton Street Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
One has to admire the gumption of the Barron family behind the Pamela Scott chain of fashion outlets. After more than 40 years in business, including the rents-fuelled savagery that compounded the economic downturn for store owners in recent years, Pamela Scott is still flying the flag for indigenous retailers on Grafton Street, the island’s premier shopping thoroughfare.
Accounts filed this week for Flairline Fashions, the company behind the group, show it is still loss-making on an operating basis – €1.7 million – despite growing sales to €22.5 million.
However, Sean Barron, the company’s septuagenarian founder who controls the chain of more than 25 outlets along with his wife Michaelina, keeps putting his own money into the business to keep it moving forward.
The directors, including the next generation of Barrons working in the business, also took a 30 per cent pay cut last year. Ulster Bank took an almighty haircut on its boom time lending to Pamela Scott in the Arzac examinership, and last year it swallowed another €2.7 million writedown on Flairline’s debts.
But this Irish-owned retailing group, which competes with mainly foreign-owned high street giants, employs about 270 people. The breaks it is getting are important to secure its future.
Pamela Scott has embarked upon a five-year turnaround plan that envisages profitability by year two. The group is also planning an expansion of its online sales business, which should add some juice to its bottom line by the time next year’s accounts are filed.
Amusingly, its settlement with the bank included “anti embarrassment conditions”, according to the accounts. An embarrassment condition is a type of sell-on clause, apparently. It could also a comment on the ludicrous boom time lending undertaken by some institutions.