Arnotts strikes retail deal with John Lewis

John Lewis, the British department store chain, will dip its toe into the Irish retail market later this year in a partnership deal with Arnotts.

In October Arnotts will open a John Lewis section spanning two floors of its Henry Street, Dublin 1 store, with about 2,000 sq.ft of retail space. It has struck an exclusive deal with John Lewis to sell 700 products from the UK chain’s own-brand home and lifestyle range, including furniture, lighting and kitchenware.

The agreement marks the first major initiative for Arnotts since it was acquired by Galen Weston’s Selfridges group in November. It will also be the first time that John Lewis products have been available in-store in the Irish market.

John Lewis has been eyeing up Ireland for several years, and the deal with Arnotts gives the group a beach-head for any future foray into the local market. It was previously linked with a bid to take over Clerys when that store went into receivership in 2012, although a deal never transpired. John Lewis was also previously thought to be lined up as an anchor tenant for a future extension of the Dundrum Town Centre.

As well as being available in-store, the John Lewis home range will be sold on the Arnotts website. John Lewis began selling to Irish consumers from its own website in 2011.

New brands

Donald McDonald, managing director of Arnotts, said he expects to make further announcements on other new brands for Arnotts over the coming months. Christine Kasoulis, the home buying director of John Lewis, also welcomed the deal with Arnotts.

Selfridges is expected to lay out its longer-term plans for Arnotts later this year. Its controlling shareholder, Mr Weston, is already familiar with the Irish retail market, as the owner of Brown Thomas department store on the southside of the city, and a major shareholder in the group that own Penneys/Primark.

A company linked to Mr Weston previously partnered with property developer Noel Smyth to take control of 50% of Arnotts through the acquisition of bank loans secured on the store.

Last year, the joint-venture with Mr Smyth took full control of Arnotts after it bought out the 50% held by US group Apollo Capital. Selfridges then took over the Arnotts store in November, leaving Mr Smyth with control of adjacent properties and development sites, and the Arnotts car park.

Consumer confidence

Arnotts had sales in the year to the end of January 2015 of more than €114m, although consumer confidence has recovered since then and city centre retailers have reported a strong uplift in sales.

The most recent figures from the Central Statistics Office show that retail sales are growing 5.1%, year-on-year. Some of the strongest growth is in the homewares market.

Report by the Irish Times