British retailer Argos has said it will cease trading at all of its 34 stores in the Republic of Ireland by the end of June after concluding the investment required to make the Irish wing of the chain profitable was too large to be viable. It informed its 580 staff of the decision to close on Thursday morning.
Its operations in Northern Ireland are not affected by the move.
In a statement, the company said it had “arrived at the decision to leave Ireland following a long period of careful consideration and a thorough review of its business and operations in the country. Argos concluded the investment required to develop and modernise the Irish part of its business was not viable and that the money would be better invested in other parts of its business.”
Mandate official Michael Meegan said the company had shared figures with the union when closing other stores over the past year and a half that were “bleak” and it had highlighted some of the challenges the wider business was facing, including the cost of doing business in Ireland, with high rents among the issues raised along with supply chain challenges arising out of Brexit.
Despite this, he said, the news that the entire chain is to close had come as “a total shock” to workers who been with the firm an average of between 11 and 15 years.
The company said it would engage with the union, which represents around half of the staff, regarding the closure and will “propose an enhanced redundancy package that goes well beyond its statutory obligations”.
Argos Ireland Operations manager, Andy McClelland, acknowledged the news would be “difficult” for everyone affected. “We have not made this decision lightly and we are doing everything we can to support those impacted,” he said.
Meegan confirmed the company had signalled its intention to engage with the union and said talks are due to begin on January 30th.
He said that from talking to members of the management team on Thursday the closure appeared to be “a fait accompli” but that the union would push for the redundancy terms that at least matched those provided to staff in previously closed stores.
“It’s too early to what we’re hoping for out of the discussions, but from talking with the management they have indicated that they will be willing to honour the current package, which is fairly generous, above the statutory, or even go beyond it and we will be pushing for that,” he said.
The company told staff that its retail outlet in Portlaoise would close on May 6th with the one in the St Stephen’s Green shopping centre closing a week later, Galway will close on June 10th and Kilkenny on June 25th. All remaining stores are currently scheduled to shut their doors on June 24th, the company said in its communication with staff.
As part of the wind down, customers in Ireland will no longer be able to pay for orders via the Argos website or place orders via its home delivery service after March 22nd, 2023. Orders placed up to this date will continue to be fulfilled and customers will still be able to reserve products online and pay for them in store until the point of business closure, the company said.
In its most recent accounts, the company’s Irish operation had reported a fourfold increase in pretax losses to €13.06 million with sales having fallen by 21.5 per cent to €133.76 million.
The figures, which were reported in December, included the costs associated with closing a number of stores. It was announced at the time that St Stephen’s Green and Kilkenny would be closed while the directors had cautioned that they would “continue to review its portfolio of stores in light of the changing retail environment and the development of the company’s online offering”.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly, said the announcement now that the company is to close all of its operations in the State is a “huge blow for the workers”. She called on the Government to “stand up for” the staff by acting to to save their jobs and assisting those who do lose them in finding alternative employment.
Labour’s Marie Sherlock described the news “a hammer blow to the retail sector and a very sad loss of good unionised jobs”. She said it would affect not only the staff but their wider communities and called for supports to be provided.
Socialist party TD Mick Barry said that given the profitability of Argos Ireland’s parent company in the UK, “the company has the potential to work its way out of the red” but was sacrificing the jobs in Ireland “on the altar of short-term profit”.