Escada to open in revamped Richard Alan


One of the grand old ladies of Dublin retailing, the Richard Alan shop on Grafton Street, is to be given a radical facelift early next year.

Established more than half a century ago by the late Jack Clarke, the company was sold last January by his sons Richard and Alan to Sean Barron's Flairline Fashions Ltd. At the time of the transaction Mr Barron said: "Nothing will change; we want to improve things if that's possible." Clearly, in the intervening period, the Flairline boss has decided that improvement is necessary, because last week he announced plans for a complete overhaul of the central Dublin site as the centrepiece of a £10 million, two-year expansion programme for his company.

Richard Alan straddles two sites with frontages on Grafton Street and South King Street. However, these buildings are to be separated, with the more high-profile premises being devoted exclusively to the German Escada label.

This will occupy 3,500 to 4,000 sq ft on Grafton Street, while the South King Street shop is to become the "Richard Alan Boutique", carrying familiar labels such as Mani, St John and Louis Feraud as well as a number of new names.

Betty Barclay, which at present fills this section of the store, will move to the ground floor of Flairline's Pamela Scott shop on Grafton Street. The latter's first floor will also take responsibility for much of Richard Alan's evening wear business.

All the work on the Richard Alan building will take place during February and March 2001, meaning the shop must close for trading for up to two months. Staff will be redeployed during this time.

The Grafton Street property is protected, which means no alterations can be made to its exterior above the ground floor. However, the shop frontage, as well as its interior, is likely to undergo a complete overhaul as Escada has a strong corporate image which the company insists is adopted by all its outlets.

Limestone flooring will be installed as well as neutral-coloured wall coverings and free-standing units. Inside the building, areas will be given to the different Escada divisions, such as the mainline and sports ranges, as well as the couture line and accessories.

One section of the store is to be set aside for private shoppers seeking greater privacy. A large section of the existing ground floor will be occupied by the new Richard Alan Boutique, while the Escada store is to occupy a greater area on the first floor. The cost of this refurbishment is in the region of £1.2 million.

First established by Wolfgang and Margaretha Ley in the mid-1970s, Escada is one of Germany's most successful fashion businesses with outlets and stockists throughout the world; curiously, the company's name came from an Irish racehorse. In 1985, Escada went public to secure capital for further expansion and diversification, adding a number of other labels, including Kemper and Cerrutti 1881, to its portfolio.

However, the main staples of the brand are: Escada; Escada Couture; Escada Elements; Escada Accessories; Escada Sport; and Escada Parfum. Last September, the company announced that its consolidated operating result during the third quarter of the fiscal year had risen by more than 22 per cent over the same period the previous year and that the volume of orders for the current season's collections was up 15 per cent on the same period.

The overhaul of the Grafton Street Richard Alan store is part of a larger investment programme being initiated by Flairline. According to Sean Barron, a £5 million plan which begun three years ago has been concluded and the new £10 million programme is expected to cover the next two years.

At the moment, work is being carried out on the exterior of the Richard Alan shop in Co Cork and Mr Barron expects that "in the near future" this property will be rearranged to feature a Pamela Scott outlet and a specialist Richard Alan store similar to the one being created in Dublin.

A Pamela Scott shop opened in the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre this year and another is to begin trading in the new Pavilions Shopping Centre which is expected to open in Swords next spring. Further Pamela Scott outlets are also planned for the proposed Pye Centre in Dundrum and, Mr Barron says, for Co Limerick and Co Galway.

An entirely Irish-owned fashion business, Flairline was established in 1970 with one retail outlet on Dublin's Grafton Street. There are now 12 shops in the group, with a further four expected to open in the next 12 months.