IRELAND'S biggest seller of books, magazines and newspapers Eason is to relocate next year from its main store on Cork city's St Patrick's Street.
The move follows a €6.5 million sale of its property opposite Debenhams to sneaker, sports and leisurewear retailers, Sports Direct International/SDI (Cork).
The new owners Sports Direct will then open a major city centre store, directly next door to rival operators JD Sports who are currently doubling their new store at the Savoy Centre. The Savoy's owners, Clarendon Properties, are currently considering a 250-seat boutique cinema within that landmark 1930s Art Deco building, which once had 2,300 movie seats.
201-year old company Eason's new chapter comes after the decision to sell and to vacate 113-115 Patrick Street, by the Savoy. Eason had initially intended to sell and then lease the building back from new investor buyers: it put it up for sale as an investment in 2019 at €6.6m, offering to pay a rent of €500,000 pa.
It was part of an on-going €100m 'sale and leaseback' operation involving 13 out of 60 Irish Eason properties, including in Galway city and O'Connell Street Dublin, via commercial agents Bannon: Bannon are seeking a new, more suitable Cork city Eason outlet, not necessarily on St Patrick Street, likely to be smaller, and on one floor only.
Eason staff have been told of the decision to relocate to "new fit-for-purpose premises in Cork city centre that will meet the future needs of our customers and our employees”.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner group, MD Liam Hanly said Eason Retail PLC “has given a commitment that staff should not be impacted by this transition.”
The company moved into 113-115 St Patrick Street in 1986, buying the 22,000 sq ft prime property from the ESB, upgrading it in the 1990s and again in 2013.
With five Cork outlets, Eason will continue to retail from its current store on 'Pana' until 2021.
Meanwhile, JD Sports will open this year in advance of Sports Direct, with 11,000 sq ft in a reconfigured store linked to the Savoy Centre, previously occupied by AWear.
Cork city's main retail boulevard is then bookended to the west by Lifestyle Sports who took 20,000 sq ft in the Capitol cinema site redevelopment three years ago.
Headed by UK businessman Mike Ashley, Sports Direct (now associated with the Fraser Group) has 670 outlets globally, with more than 40 in Ireland, including Blackpool in Cork, Mallow, Bandon and Midleton, along with Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.