Zany Spanish fashion brand Desigual has opened its first shop in the Republic of Ireland in Arnotts’ new lifestyle store at the Jervis Centre in Dublin.
The bold brand from Barcelona has chosen a particularly difficult time to enter the Republic of Ireland, which is in the throes of a severe depression.
Shoppers are crossing over the border into Northern Ireland in droves to take advantage of the pound and the much lower VAT. It is a trend being replicated across all retail sectors and bleeding trade dry in the Republic of Ireland.
So whether Desigual’s relatively unknown fashions – there are only two stores in the UK, at Westfield London and on Regent Street – coupled with its relatively high price points – €109 (£97.99) for a maxi dress, €49 (£44) for a basic vest top and €95 (£85) for a bag – will prove a hit for depressed Irish shoppers is unclear.
With the likes of Inditex’s Pull and Bear and Ireland’s A-Wear and Penneys – the fascia under which Primark trades in Ireland – down the road on Henry Street, all offering fashion-forward ranges at much lower prices, the battle is on.
However, the execution of the concession concept Desigual has debuted in Arnotts’ new lifestyle store is eye-catching, aided by the high ceilings and vast space in the basement of what used to be a Debenhams store.
It is a vast improvement on its Regent Street store, which has lost out after offering a fairly confusing first floor, requiring customers to head down in to the basement before they can get their hands on product.
And in the Arnotts store Desigual has benefited from being placed next to other brands on the fashion floor, such as Superdry and Lipsy.
The basement of the four-floor, 90,000 sq ft department store has been well conceived, with funky fittings and bright visual merchandising as well as inviting areas for shoppers to feel at home.
Arnotts has done a good job of making the best of a bad situation after acquiring the second site in the Jervis Centre to make a temporary move in to it while the Northern Quarter scheme is being developed.
Arnotts is leading the revitalisation of the shopping district but has been left holding the baby while the project is on hold.
Chief executive David Riddiford has done a good job of tackling the situation and making an about-face. The lifestyle store opened in November but has only just been fully converted and opened at the beginning of the month, aiming to attract a younger customer. There is not anything quite like a young, aspirational fashion boutique offer in Dublin, according to locals.
However, the main Arnotts department store is looking tired while it waits for construction to begin again, leaving Riddiford in a quandry. And no one knows when the end is in sight.
Once the construction industry stops in Ireland the economy stops, says one Arnotts executive, and with that industry looking likely to be in the doldrums for some time, retailers in Ireland have to adapt as best they can.