Fashion retailer Laura Ashley trades Cork city for suburbs

Cork's suburban Turners Cross Retail Park Cork, where fashion and homewares retailer Laura Ashley is to take over this former stand alone Mercedes showroom and is vacating Merchants Quay in the city centre where it has traded for 30 years.

FASHION and homeware retailer Laura Ashley is to leave its long-held Cork city centre shop on St Patrick’s Street, after 30 years trading there at the Merchants Quay Shopping Centre: it is moving instead to suburban retail park.

Laura Ashley was one of the first retailers companies at the brand-new Merchants Quay Shopping Centre, joining the likes of Marks & Spencers in a then-transformative wave of UK retailers’ arrival to Cork.

However against a backdrop of enormous disruption to the retail/fashion industry with the shift to online selling, the Malaysian-owned Laura Ashley chain announced in December 2018 to shed 40 of its 159 UK stores, as it explores other branded option in hotels and tea rooms, as well as opening the ‘quintessentially English’ marque across China.

The good news, though for the wider Cork city catchment and its loyal Munster shoppers is that it Laura Ashley is relocating, to the suburbs, to the Turners Cross Retail Park where it will have rent savings, rates savings and easier car access for its furniture and homewares good collection.

It’s known that the Cork store performed far better in house furnishings and decoration sales than in fashion.

The internationally known homewares and fashion brand is taking a high profile 5,000 sq ft former Mercedes showroom at the newly-rebranded Turners Cross Retail Park, via agent Nicholas Corson of Finnegan Menton acting for motor group owners MSL.

Existing traders in the steadily expanding former motor dealership site in Cork’s southern suburb just off the ring road include a 55,000 sq ft Woodies, Harry Corry, HomeStores & More in a 26,000 sq ft unit, Kube Kitchens in a standalone unit, and Costa Coffee.

DID Electrical is due to open there shortly, it’s understood, while another trader, Halpenny Golf in Unit 1 is vacating, with World of Tiles (already in Mullingar, Limerick, Kerry and Dublin) due to replace them to further bulwark the location’s growing profile of home goods, furniture, DIY and building related traders.

Details of the deal with MSL for Laura Ashley aren’t disclosed, but they are likely to be paying in excess of €100,000, or €20 psf sq ft at Turners Cross, with other rents previously quoted there (eg for the smaller Costa Coffee unit) at €30 psf.

It’s previously recorded that Laura Ashley has been paying a rent of €292,000 pa on a historical, upward only rent at Cork’s Merchants Quay, where it has 4,000 sq ft in all, including first floor storage of 1,300 sq ft and 2,700 sq ft of retail space.

Rates at Laura Ashley’s Cork store at MQ/St Patrick’s Quay are also set at premium levels, last set in 1989, despite the shift in trading footfall in the city centre in the past decade. It’s known that Laura Ashley had at an early stage considered expanding to the first floor within Merchants Quay, with up to 6,000 sq ft on offer there, all serviced by the centre’s large multi-storey car-park, before deciding to move to Turners Cross.

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That first floor space now is being pitched by Savills Cork for owners Clarendon Properties and Belgian fund Finaxer for a licensed upmarket restaurant, with direct access by stairs and lift from St Patrick Street.

Clarendon and Finaxer paid €13.7m two year ago for 29 units in the northern section of the O’Callaghan Properties’ 1989-developed Merchant Quay Shopping Centre, with a €1.7m rent roll, with €292,000 of that from Laura Ashley.

Elements of the larger centre (eg Debenhams,/SuperValu/Dunnes and the car park have changed hands several times, and are in different ownerships.)

Estate agent Lia Dennehy of Savills Cork said she is now in discussion with two quite different fashion retailers for the soon-to-be vacated Laura Ashley presence, and said she’s confident of a deal, and indicated a quoted rent being sought at c €65 per square foot.

Across the mall for the Laura Ashley MQ unit, meanwhile, Carrig Donn has in recent weeks replaced Edinburgh Mills at the centre’s corner, with dual display frontage.

Savills Ms Dennehy noted also that the mall’s new owners Clarendon/Finaxer were seeking permission for the first floor licensed restaurant, (in the one-time Kylemore Cafe space) along with changes in facade treatment on the quay and main shopping boulevard, as well as upgrading entrances, including that on Merchants Quay, which will face the new multi-million euro pedestrian bridge to St Patrick’s Quay/MacCurtain Street via Harley Street.

Laura Ashley has four stores in Northern Ireland, one in Limerick’s Savoy Centre, is located in the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin as well as in a retail park in Blanchardstown. It is in a retail park, Arcadia, in Athlone, and in Galway it is also in a suburban location.

Details: Finnegan Menton 01-6147900, Savills 021-4271371

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