Brown Thomas blooms in Cork


A £12 million-plus overhaul of Cash's, the Brown Thomas group's department store in Cork, is to conclude next month with a renaming of the premises. According to the company's managing director, Paul Kelly, the shop on Patrick Street, bought by Brown Thomas in 1991, had been hardly touched, except for essential maintenance, for more than 15 years.

"The place needed money spent on it; if we didn't do so, we shouldn't be in Cork, regardless of British chains or anyone else coming into the city," he says. The refurbishment will conclude before Friday, March 27th, when a gala evening will mark the store's renaming as Brown Thomas Cork.

Work on Cash's has been ongoing for the past year without the shop closing to the public. The main structure dates from the 1920s, when Cork's Patrick Street was largely rebuilt. However, a large area at the back of the building remained unused. This has been incorporated into the store, increasing floor space more than 50 per cent from around 45,000 sq ft to 75,000 sq ft.

As a result, many fashion labels and household lines not previously stocked will now be carried by Brown Thomas Cork. Among new lines of clothing being introduced are Irish designers Lainey Keogh and Marc O'Neill, as well as international names including Max Mara, Jean Muir, Jasper Conran and for men, Kenzo, Tommy Hilfiger and Valentino. Even so, the Cork store will be about half the size of Dublin's Brown Thomas, which opened opposite its original site on Grafton Street three years ago.

And while the two outlets will now share the same name, their interior design will not be identical. While the Dublin store's predominantly neutral tones are highlighted by outbursts of red, in Cork the colour will be royal blue. Certain other materials, such as wood fittings, will also be different in Brown Thomas Cork, where the new image has been created by the company's design controller, Bill Simpson, and architect Alan Douglas.

Already the second busiest outlet in the group, with the refurbishment, Paul Kelly expects the store's annual turnover to rise from about £15 million to around £25 million.

He does not believe the change of name will have an adverse effect on business. "Cash's is a Brown Thomas company and shares our ethos, so it should have our name. What's going to be there from March onwards is something Cork people can be very proud of."

Later this year, similar work will start on another store, Todd's in Limerick, which will eventually undergo the same transformation. A revamp of Moon's in Galway is also planned.

The Brown Thomas group is simultaneously working on an additional project - the opening early next month of the three-storey BT2 on Dublin's Grafton Street. This clothing outlet will offer international sports and casual wear for both men and women, appealing predominantly to the youth market. Paul Kelly says BT2 will free space in the main store, although he is anxious not to alienate the younger customer from Brown Thomas.

Although the initial concept came about because the company owned a spare building on the capital's prime shopping street, "should BT2 work, we have already considered rolling it out into other parts of the country", he says Meanwhile next door to BT2, the flagship store of Brown Thomas's A.Wear chain is due for its own make-over. No work has been done on the shop's interior since 1985 and, planning permission forthcoming, it will be given a completely new image next year.