The largest stationer and bookseller in Northern Ireland has announced plans to close all of its stores here with the loss of 144 jobs.
On Wednesday evening, taff learned that the oldest Irish bookseller, Eason & Son, intended to start a consultation process on the proposals not to reopen its seven stores in Northern Ireland.
The Irish retailer has not reopened its stores in Belfast, Newtownabbey, Lisburn, Bangor, Enniskillen, Derry and Coleraine since lockout restrictions were imposed on March 23.
The company, struggling for some time, blamed Covid-19 and Brexit for its decision.
He said revenues have fallen by more than 30% since 2016, including previous store closings, with cumulative operating losses during the period amounting to £ 1.8 million.
In 2019, the company generated revenue of £ 12.5m and an operating loss of more than £ 300,000.
In a statement, Eason said: “The announcement follows a detailed review of stores in Northern Ireland in the context of the devastating impact of Covid-19 on current and future commerce and the implications of a number other important factors on future prospects. and the sustainability of the business in Northern Ireland.
“Employees are invited to elect representatives to engage the company around its proposals in the context of a collective redundancy process which should last around 30 days.
“While management and staff have worked hard in recent years to reduce losses in the business, progress has been hampered by significant cost inflation in NI.
“Most importantly, the situation has been exacerbated by the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on existing business and the prospects for the business.
“In addition, the damage to business due to the lingering uncertainty around Covid-19 occurred at a time when the increasing likelihood of a hard Brexit represents a significant additional risk, bringing greater uncertainty and further degradation of commercial performance. ”
Two years ago, Eason closed the Craigavon store at Rushmere Mall and its Newry store at Buttercrane Mall, after closing stores in Ballymena, Newtownards and west of Belfast.
NI Retail CEO Glyn Roberts said it was “very bad news.”
“Eason & Son was a household name and a highly respected local business, and its closure is a loss to our retail sector,” he said.
“It is not only the loss of the business – it is the reduction in the number of visitors to the surrounding merchants located next to its seven stores that we must also take into account. ”
“Our retail sector and our inner cities are facing a long way back and we need the executive to present an ambitious and bold recovery plan to help create the main streets of the 21st century and to support and develop our local retail sector.
“Our thoughts are with the 144 employees and their families during this difficult time. “