High-end retail therapy gets really affordable

LOUIS COPELAND is offering 50% off a second item, beauty store neu blue eru is promoting 60% off selected products, and Fitzpatricks has handbags and shoes on sale for 30% and 50% off.

This is the scene at the Dublin Docklands Authority-owned chq building in the heart of the IFSC.

The building, which is a former wine and tobacco warehouse, is home to about 20 retailers, most high-end. They likely had a vision when they decided to open there two years ago. And it would have been hard to find a person to say they were making a mistake opening a luxury store at the height of the boom. The retailers wanted to lure the IFSC hotshots in to buy suits, dresses and €3,000 couches.

But we all know the way this story ended and retailers across the country are faced with a fight for survival.

This has resulted in massive discounts, such as shirts at tailors Henry Jermyn being reduced from €110 to €59.59 and suits slashed from €695 to €278.

Bartek Kezminski, originally from Poland, has been working at the Louis Copeland store at the chq for the last year.

“Business is very good, I can’t really complain. Sales are up from last year and that is because of the discounts that are out there. I think people are fed up with the talk of the recession and they want to treat themselves.”

Mr Kezminski said some retailers are complaining that business is slow, but others are still doing well.

One of those doing well is the large Meadows and Byrne store located across from Louis Copeland.

A security guard working at the centre, who didn’t want to give his name for fear he’d lose his job, said there are many tourists that visit the centre and Meadows and Byrne is a popular store among them.

“It’s fierce quiet around alright, but some shops seem to be doing ok,” he said.

A spokeswoman from the Dublin Docklands Authority said the retailers at the chq building are finding times challenging.

“However, they are fortunate in that they have an immediate catchment population of over 18,000 people in the IFSC area and, as such, have a constant level of business.

“In addition, a number of large events take place in the IFSC and wider Docklands area which bring large numbers of people to the chq building.”

The spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny when asked if retailers are being offered one year free rent to locate at the chq. “Rental levels and incentives vary according to the tenants involved and terms are confidential to each,” she said.

When it comes to eating out, there isn’t one sandwich bar or restaurant that isn’t offering a bargain price.

Spar is packed with people taking advantage of cut-price sandwiches and drinks. Many workers sit outside, some with packed lunches, others with their discounted sandwiches from Subway.

“We used to have a lunch club, but that has been dissolved over the last few months. We pretty much do our own thing now,” said one worker.

Business at O’Briens and Munchies take-away sandwich outlets on Mayor Street is relatively busy but there are no massive queues.

All inside tables at Ely Chq wine bar and restaurant are taken by 1.15pm, but on a sunny day the outside tables lie empty. “Morale is down and people don’t want to be seen splashing the cash at lunchtime,” said accountant Sinead.

“I think people just want to get on with their jobs, but there’s a lot of frustration out there too at the prospect of not being promoted or receiving a bonus. People are still going out, but not as often. They are still going on holidays too. There’s people in my office off to Dubai and America this summer,” she said.

The DDA spokeswoman said restaurants and bars in the Docklands are “holding up well given the current economic climate. On the north side, the opening of the O2 last December has brought much needed business to the area,” she said.

There is certainly a mood of optimism around the IFSC at lunchtime but there’s no doubt people are still worried.

“We just want to get on with it,” said Dublin lawyer, Simon.

And just when it looks like the sun might be just breaking through the dark clouds again with signs that, just maybe things could be starting to get better a girl, aged 28, walks into the Harbourmaster pub and orders a Corona at 3pm.

“I’ve just been told I lost my job,” she told the barmaid. “I need it.”

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