RECEIVERS Grant Thornton has been appointed by Bank of Ireland to oversee the sale of two former flagship stores previously occupied by British retail giant Debenhams, in Cork and Dublin.
They include the premises in St Patrick’s Street in Cork City, an iconic building on the main shopping street, which operated as Roches Stores for the bones of a century before the Roche family let it from Debenhams in 2006.
The second location, also owned by companies associated with the Roche family, is on Henry St.
A Bank of Ireland spokesperson has confirmed Grant Thornton’s appointment to the.
Industry sources said they expect receivers to seek proposals from estate agents shortly to award listing for disposal of the buildings, both of which have stood empty since Debenhams withdrew in May 2020.
Company people said it was difficult to predict whether interest in the 150,000-square-foot, 1.6-acre building on St Patrick’s Street, wedged between Marks & Spencer and Brown Thomas, would come from a owner/occupier or developer, or what the sale price may be.
The Roche family previously put the St Patrick’s Street premises (excluding the main shopping arcade, SuperValu section and multi-storey car park) up for sale four years ago with Colliers, with an unconfirmed price of €70-75m quoted, for a 5% return, but the market didn’t bite.
Accounts filed for 2019 by Dooroy Ltd, a company associated with Roche, said the group of which Dooroy is a member was “in breach of numerous covenants” relating to Bank of Ireland loans and that “a standstill agreement” signed with the bank had expired.
Property experts have suggested that the future of the Cork premises could be to follow the example of Clerys department store, which has been redeveloped into a mixed-use development (retail/offices/food and drink/rooftop bar and restaurant), named Clerys Quarter since its creation. sold in 2015 for €29 million to investor Natrium.
Natrium in turn sold it for more than double to a consortium of three members: Europa Capital, owned by the Rockefeller group; Oakmount, a real estate company of Paddy McKillen Jnr and his Press-Up Entertainment partner Matt Ryan, and Core Capital.
Savills director Ken Sweeney snagged Deal of the Year at the National Property Awards last week for letting a total of 60,000 square feet in the new Clerys Quarter development to fashion retailers Flannels and H&M – which should open before the end of the year.
The St Patrick’s Street premises have become a ghost building since its closure, with some concerns over whether its condition has deteriorated.
It’s starkly reminiscent of the effects of the pandemic, which has changed shopping habits, with shoppers adapting a hybrid approach to physical and online shopping.
The pandemic has also seen other major retail outlets leave the high street, including Monsoon, Oasis, Warehouse and Argos.
News that agents will soon be appointed to sell the former Debenhams outlet emerges as high street fortunes appear to be improving, with fast fashion outlet Penneys set to embark on an expansion of multi-million euros (delayed by the planning process with a decision pending) and the imminent arrival of multi-brand retailer Flannels (part of the Fraser Group) at Eason’s premises.
Bookseller and stationer Eason meanwhile is moving to the ground floor of the former Victoria Hotel at 36 St Patrick Street, opposite recently arrived Dubray Books, with menswear specialists Suit Direct taking over 83-85 St Patrick Street, corner of Carey’s Lane.