Clarks joins the growing list of retail casualties on Cork's Patrick's Street

Retailers are tentatively reopening their doors as Covid-19 subsides but the scars caused by the pandemic are evident on streets across the country.
Clarks joins the growing list of retail casualties on Cork's Patrick's Street
Clarks St. Patrick's Street in Cork will not reopen. Picture Denis Minihane.
Clarks St. Patrick's Street in Cork will not reopen. Picture Denis Minihane.

- with reporting from Alan Healy

Retailers are tentatively reopening their doors as Covid-19 subsides but the scars caused by the pandemic are evident on streets across the country.

In Cork, the impact has been significant for the city's main shopping centre with a number of high-profile businesses shutting their doors for good. Clarks footwear is the latest confirmed casualty.

"After careful consideration, we have decided to no longer trade at St. Patrick Street in Cork," a company spokesman said. The international footwear giant joins a growing list of retailers that are departing the street including Debenhams, Monsoon, Oasis and Warehouse.

"Where businesses are open, spend is up." Pedestrians on St. Patrick's Street in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
"Where businesses are open, spend is up." Pedestrians on St. Patrick's Street in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

At present, Mr Owens says businesses are just glad to be back open and trading after months of lockdown.

However, retailers are still facing difficult circumstances. "Numbers are restricted, the whole customer mindset has been affected by a three-month lockdown.

"Where businesses are open, spend is up. Most people who are going in are shopping, it's not just the browsing experience."

Mr Owens believes there is a future for bricks and mortar shops, but the physical premises have to be coupled with online. "We will always have shops, it's now about how retailers are reinventing themselves. What Covid-19 has done is accelerated the move online.

A closing down sale is currently taking place in the Oasis store on St. Patrick's Street.
A closing down sale is currently taking place in the Oasis store on St. Patrick's Street.

"[A lot of] retailers realised they couldn't just stand still and have a [physical] outlet, they have got to get involved with online, and have some sort of presence. It's been a double-edged sword, it has changed a lot of retailer's perspectives very quickly."

Mr Owens believes the online threat to the high street will never go away, and retailers need to adjust and adapt to it. "You can't just do what you always did. A lot of retailers will need to be more innovative.

"Cities also need to become more experiential. It can't just be a one-stop-shop, you've got to look at the whole package. The mix of retail has to change and will change.

The landmark Debenhams outlet is one the high profile caualties of the covid-19 pandemic. Picture Denis Minihane.
The landmark Debenhams outlet is one the high profile caualties of the covid-19 pandemic. Picture Denis Minihane.

"You can see the fallout has been predominantly UK-based stores. We won't have them to fill every gap on the street anymore."

He said the Debenhams unit will present an issue due to its size. "It's a landmark store, it's going to be very difficult to find anybody in this climate to come on board and take on a unit [of that size.] Most retail outlets are condensing in, not expanding out.

"There has to be a way of reconfiguring existing premises into multifunctional spaces to offer a broad mix, not just overly dependent on retail. Bring in the hospitality, culture, experiential, apartments, boutique hotels. There's a lot to be done with imagination, initiative and a mindset to do that."

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