Hundreds out of work as iconic store Clerys closes

Clerys iconic shop front on O'Connell Street
Clerys iconic shop front on O'Connell Street

The shutters will stay down on the iconic Clerys department store in Dublin today, with hundreds of workers out of a job following a dramatic final day of trading.

There has been a department store on the site for 160 years, and it has bounced back from war, fire and flood.

But it closed its doors following the appointment of liquidators just hours after the historic property on O'Connell Street was sold by US owners Gordon Brothers to Natrium, an Irish-led consortium.

The consortium is led by Deirdre Foley's D2 Private and UK-based Cheyne Capital Management, with backing from US financiers Quadrant Real Estate Advisors.

It is understood the new owners of the property plan to develop a new shopping centre, as well as offices and leisure facilities, within the landmark Dublin building.

"Shellshocked" staff learned that they had lost their jobs just hours after the sale announcement had raised hopes the business itself might now survive. Hopes of a rescue were dashed within hours - when the High Court appointed joint provisional liquidators to the company that had operated the department store.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan appointed insolvency practitioners Eamonn Richardson and Kieran Wallace of KPMG as joint provisional liquidators of OCS Operations Ltd, which operated the store.

The company petitioned the court for liquidation saying the store must immediately cease trading to prevent any further debts arising.

The court heard the company is unlikely to have sufficient monies to make upcoming payments, including those due early next week, and is unable to pay its debts.

One employee told the Irish Independent that staff only learned of the sale at lunchtime. While the process to appoint liquidators was under way, union officials were seeking meetings with the new owners, according to Michael Meegan of the Mandate trade union.

"The hope was it (Clerys) would be sold to a retailer, but that is not what has materialised," he said. After the sale was announced, he contacted the new owners seeking an urgent meeting.

By 5.40pm, however, the liquidators had moved to secure the premises, and the process of closing the historic department store was under way.

Workers staged a three-hour sit-in following the appointment of a liquidator.

The business employs 130 people, while approximately another 330 are employed by 50 'concession holders'.

Some 20 staff remained in the building until shortly before 9pm last night.

A number of workers and small business people leaving the rear entrance to the store expressed anger at the "shoddy manner" in which staff had been treated.

"We're out of business; we're gone. I've just been told that we're at the bottom of a list of unsecured creditors," said Martin O'Sullivan, co-owner of a carpet and rugs concession in the store.

Shop stewart Teresa Hannick, Siptu sector organiser, said workers had been left "shell-shocked".