Coronavirus: Brown Thomas, Arnotts and Penneys closing until further notice

Retail Ireland calls for emergency support for shops ‘devastated’ by Covid-19 pandemic

Both Brown Thomas and Arnotts closed at 5pm on Wednesday evening as the impact of coronavirus continues to send shock waves through the retail sector and society at large.

Penneys said it was also closing until further notice. It said it was acting out of concern for the health and safety of its employees and customers.

In a letter to staff, the managing director of both Brown Thomas and Arnotts Donald McDonald confirmed the temporary closure and said the decision had been taken “after giving the utmost consideration to our team members well-being, their families, our customers, our partners, our suppliers and the longer term future of our business”.

He said both and would continue to operate and the company’s focus would switch to supporting its digital and social platforms throughout the next few weeks.


“Given the circumstances we must now do the right thing by the communities in which we live and work to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” Mr McDonald said.

‘Huge undertaking’

He said it was “a huge undertaking” for the entire operation “during what has been and continues to be a very uncertain time for all of us”.

He also pointed out that both Brown Thomas and Arnotts are “strong” with “great people and a great character and I know together we will navigate our way through this and reopen our stores again as soon as we can”.

The move comes in a week when shops across the country have shut their doors in what has been described as “the hardest and most challenging” week in Irish retail history.

In a statement Penneys said it “has overcome many challenges over the past 50 years.

“We pride ourselves on our agility and our ability to adapt. We thank all our employees, customers, suppliers and partners for their continued support.”

In the wake of the latest raft of closures, Retail Ireland, the Ibec representative body for the retail sector in Ireland, called for emergency support for the shops which it said had been "devastated" by closures and mass layoffs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The umbrella group’s director Arnold Dillion said the last few days “have been traumatic for the retail sector, its workforce and the country. With the closure of more of our major retail flagship brands today including Arnotts and Brown Thomas there are significant issues to be addressed by Government both in terms of support for job losses and for businesses.”

He said it was crucial “to do everything possible to preserve vulnerable businesses. The State must continue to look at cash-flow and forbearance measures and to adjust supports which can help preserve as many retailers as possible through the crisis period.”

The chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland David Fitzsimons yesterday predicted that hundreds of thousands of people working in retail in Ireland could be out of work this week as a result of restrictions linked to the virus

DublinTown, a group representing some city centre businesses, said yesterday that footfall on the capital’s streets was almost a third lower during the week of March 9th to 15th than in the same week last year.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast