Dreams, a private equity-backed UK furniture retailer, is weighing a possible expansion in the Republic of Ireland over the next 12 months.
Mike Logue, chief executive of the group that operates 195 stores across the UK, attended a major retail conference in Dublin on Wednesday, organised by Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), the industry body.
Speaking after his presentation, Mr Logue confirmed Dreams is exploring entering the market in the Republic. It already has six shops in the North, operated by a franchisee.
“Yes, I am looking [at entering the Republic]. Yes, I am interested,” said Mr Logue, although he emphasised that there is no definite plan yet.
“We would love to expand internationally, and southern Ireland would be a great place to do that. However, we still have lots to do in the UK first. It won’t happen quite yet. But perhaps over the next year or so.”
Dreams, which has sales of £300 million (€343 million), was bought out of administration in 2013 by a US fund, Sun Capital Partners. It manufactures its own beds and mattresses at a plant in England.
Mr Logue said if the business does enter the Irish market, it could also set up a plan here, but that would be “three to five years” down the line. He also said it would be open to the possibility of linking up with a local Irish franchise partner: “The first step [of an expansion] would be to see if someone wanted to work with us. But it is early days.”
Meanwhile REI, which welcomed 2,000 delegates and 160 exhibitors to its annual "retreat" at Citywest, has asked an international retail trade group to push for rules obliging global ecommerce sites to add taxes to cross-border sales, corresponding to the destination of the buyer.
Irish e-commerce retailers say they are disadvantaged because their domestic prices must include all appropriate taxes, such as VAT and duties. REI claims the State loses out on €1.2 billion in taxes due to online purchases by Irish consumers on foreign sites.
Lorraine Higgins, REI's chief executive-designate, gave a presentation on Wednesday to FIRAE, (Forum for International Retail Association Executives), which held its 25-country Global Retail Council meeting at Citywest ahead of the REI retreat.
She asked FIRAE, which is allied to the US trade giant, the National Retail Federation, to lobby internationally for tax rules on cross-border ecommerce.