Shaws Department Stores have announced they are to close their Longford branch, just over a year since it first opened its doors.
The company confirmed the decision last Friday, January 16, citing the store’s failure to meet targets since opening, as the reason for the move, along with the “likely long-term financial performance of the location”.
“It is with great regret that I have had to make this announcement today,” said the company’s Managing Director, Jonathan Shaw. “In particular, I want to thank our Longford team - management and staff - for their incredibly hard work over the last 15 months. Today’s decision in no way bears any reflection on them and their efforts.”
Shaws’ Longford branch will close permanently on Saturday, January 31.
When Shaws announced plans to open the store in August of 2013, a spokesperson for the retail chain said the store could employ up to 15 full-time and part-time workers. Shaws are currently examining the possibility of relocating Longford-based staff members to other branches. Anyone who does not wish to transfer will be offered redundancy terms “well in excess of statutory requirements”.
Trading at Shaws’ other 15 stores will be unaffected by the announcement, which comes in the wake of home improvement chain Homebase’s revelation that it is consulting with staff ahead of the proposed closure of its Longford outlet.
Councillor Mae Sexton, Cathaoirleach of the Mid-Longford Municipal District, told the Longford Leader that the loss of such retail outlets will have a negative impact not just on Longford town, but also on the wider county area.
“If businesses are closing in the county town, it’s going to have a ripple effect on the entire county,” she said. “It’s a very serious loss of jobs in a small community, and it will have a devastating effect.”
Cllr Sexton criticised the Government’s handling of the jobs issue in Co Longford, adding that the constituency’s Dáil representatives are not doing enough.
“The fact that Longford hasn’t had an IDA visit in the past five years is appalling. There is no political clout to persuade them to visit. We have to put pressure on James Bannon (Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath) to stand up and be counted.
“These days we’re hearing about job announcements everywhere, except in Longford. We have gotten nothing from the current Government and Longford needs it more than anywhere else.
The experienced local representative also questioned the retail strategy for Shaws’ Longford branch, saying: “There was very little on offer compared to their other stores, which are of a higher standard.”
Responding to Shaws’ decision to pull out of Longford, Pat Murphy of Longford Women in Business empathised with the workers before saying that, “We need to encourage businesses into the town. The trade is going to bigger hubs where customers don’t have to walk by 15 or 16 closed units.”
Ms Murphy also singled out crime as a deterrent to potential customers for traders in Longford town: “Crime in the streets isn’t helping; we need an increased Garda presence. At the moment it can be very scary walking through the town and some people avoid it.”