Home improvement chain Homebase has confirmed that it will be closing its outlet at the N4 Axis Centre in Longford town.
A spokesperson for Homebase’s UK-based parent company, Home Retail Group, confirmed the decision last Thursday, January 8, and said a consultation process had been initiated with staff.
“Homebase can confirm that the business has entered a period of consultation with colleagues regarding the proposed closure of our store in Longford,” the spokesperson explained. “Colleagues at the store have been informed and we will be working with them over the next few weeks to support them as much as possible.”
The spokesperson went on to say that, “As this consultation is in progress, we are unable to comment further at this time.”
It is not yet known how many jobs will be lost as a result of the closure, although it is thought that approximately 30 people work at the Longford store.
Homebase currently has 13 stores nationwide, employing a total of almost 500 people. In 2013, the company’s Irish operation entered examinership, and while it has since exited this process, it resulted in the closure of two stores in Carlow and Castlebar.
James Morgan of Red Cow Development Partnership, the company which manages the N4 Axis Centre, told the Longford Leader he has not yet received any notification from Homebase regarding the store’s closure or withdrawal from its premises.
“They are not obliged to officially confirm they are closing the store until mid February as part of their legal obligations to us, which would suggest the store will close sometime around mid August,” he said. “Considering we have had no official notification of the closure and while we have had many ups and downs at the N4 Axis Centre over the past 10 years, we very much intend to put our shoulders to the wheel should Homebase decide to vacate their premises in due course.”
Reacting to the announcement, Longford Chamber of Commerce President, Fintan McGill, said it is a blow for the town.
“It’s absolutely devastating for Longford. It’s an awful thing to happen, and when you think that the IDA has not visited the county for years, it doesn’t augur well for another business to come in and replace it.”
Mr McGill went on to single out rates as a potential factor in Homebase’s decision, although he acknowledged that online shopping may also have played a role.
“The rates issue will not have helped; it’s extremely high,” he said. “The three per cent reduction introduced by the council is not good enough - it’s screwing businesses and killing the town.
“A lot of it has to be down to online shopping, too. For example, you can buy locks for half the price they are in shops.”
Fianna Fáil County Councillor and local businessman Seamus Butler also expressed his disappointment at Homebase’s decision.
“My sympathies are with the staff there; they’re always very helpful,” he admitted. “However, this is always the risk with foreign-owned companies - the decisions aren’t made here, they’re made in London or Manchester.”
Cllr Butler revealed that he will be seeking to address the issue in his role as Chairperson of Longford County Council’s Economic Strategy Policy Committee, saying, “We’re endeavouring to bring investment into Longford, both indigenous and foreign.”
Assuming a more positive tone, Cllr Butler then added he has high hopes on the jobs front for Longford in 2015: “The eyes of the nation were on Longford over Christmas, and if St Mel’s Cathedral can rise from the ashes, I’m sure Longford town can, too.
“I’m sure we will have some positive announcements in the coming months.”