Penneys keeps expansion plans for Dundrum on hold

Retailer had been in talks to take two floors once occupied by House of Fraser

Penneys had planned to take two floors of the old House of Fraser unit at Dundrum Town Centre. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

Penneys had planned to take two floors of the old House of Fraser unit at Dundrum Town Centre. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

 

Irish fast fashion retailer Penneys is keeping its expansion plans for Dundrum Town Centre on hold, as it deals with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and focuses on plans for re-opening.

Prior to the arrival of the pandemic last year, the retailer had been in discussions with town centre owners UK property company Hammerson and insurer Allianz to take two of the floors previously occupied by Sports Direct-owned House of Fraser.

As the pandemic hit last March however, it said that it had put these plans on hold. Now, 12 months later, the chain says nothing has changed, with these expansion plans still on hold.

“Due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19, we have paused our expansion plans for Dundrum Town Centre,” a spokeswoman said on Tuesday, adding, “Dundrum remains a very important location for Penneys, but for the moment our priority is on re-opening our stores safely in line with government guidance”.

The retailer, known as Primark in the UK and part of the Associated British Foods group, has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, as it has no online presence.

With some 300 stores closed around the world on the back of Covid-19 restrictions, it is forecasting a 40 per cent decline in sales for the six months to end February 2021, with sales expected to be down by some £1.1 billion (€1.3bn).

It would be a blow to the centre if the deal does not go ahead. Penneys had been expected to close its store on the second floor of the shopping centre, and re-locate over two floors in the unit previously occupied by House of Fraser.

Brown Thomas delay

Brown Thomas has committed to taking the other two floors in the four floor unit, the lower and ground floor, and is due to open in the first half of 2021, or when non-essential retail gets the green light from Government. However, this may now be delayed.

“Construction works to repurpose the former House of Fraser unit have naturally been impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and the closure of construction sites,” a spokeswoman for Hammerson said, adding that timelines for the opening of Brown Thomas “will be confirmed in due course”.

Dundrum has not been immune from a downturn in the retail sector, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Last year US retailer Gap, which has an outlet in the shopping centre, said it was considering closing its four Irish stores by the end of June 2021, while recent store closures at the centre, in addition to House of Fraser, include Karen Millen, Oasis and Aldo.