Waterford TDs have reacted with shock and disappointment at news this week of the closure of the Debenhams store in the city. The UK firm announced that it was pulling out of Ireland with the closure of all 11 of its stores.
Green TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh said that their decision will be a huge blow to Waterford which was a city already struggling before the Covid-19 crisis but which will be under even more pressure now.
Debenhams took over the old Roches Stores anchor unit in City Square and gave Waterford City Centre shoppers a version of the traditional department store. Their departure will be a huge loss to City Square, the City Centre and the region as a
Deputy Ó Cathasaigh said “There will be significant direct job losses as well as a large number of indirect job losses. Behind each and every one of those workers is a family who will need to be looked after."
He called on Waterford people to make a point of supporting their local businesses where possible now and as we come out of the Covid-19 crisis. “So many local businesses have closed their doors and unfortunately, not all of them will re-open. We all need to make a special effort to spend our money in our city and county so we protect as many of these businesses as possible. It’s only when they are gone that we will truly see what we have lost."
Sinn Féin's David Cullinane said: “It is no secret that Debenhams have been struggling over the past number of years, but the appointment of liquidators will still come as a huge shock to Debenhams' 1,500 staff and for contractors and suppliers all over the country including here in Waterford.
"It is extremely stressful for workers to lose their jobs at any time, but right now - in the midst of a pandemic - and when people are really struggling, it is a double blow.
“I have been contacted by workers in Waterford who are devastated by this news. I, in turn, have been in touch with the Mandate Trade Union.
Fianna Fail TD, Mary Butler, added: "Debenhams is the major store or anchor tenant in many shopping centres and city centre locations, so their closure will have a huge knock-on effect on neighbouring stores too.
"I have contacted the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to ask for measures to be put in place immediately to help workers and their families at this difficult time.
“Debenhams workers have been through the mill over the past two years, with the threat of job losses constantly hanging over them. Today’s news is devastating for them, particularly given the current anxiety brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.
“The closure of the store also leaves a huge gap in the retail sector in the city, as it was the anchor tenant in City Square. Workers in the concession stores – Top Shop, Miss Selfridge, Oasis and Quiz - will also be affected. My thoughts are with all of the workers and their families at this difficult time.
“It is important that the company engages with the workers to outline what, if any, redundancy terms are being offered.
“I will be contacting the Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection to establish what options and supports are open to the Debenhams workers and I am also calling on the government to ensure that retraining and upskilling opportunities are made available to these workers, once the Covid-19 crisis restrictions are lifted.”