The announcement that Penneys in the Longwalk Shopping Centre Dundalk is to close in the next few months, even though it was expected, has come as quite a shock to the workforce, writes Ami Connolly.
The store, a main tenant in the centre, closed its doors in 2005 when the Marshes Shopping Centre opened, but due to lease commitments the Longwalk store re-opened.
“There have always been rumours that the store was going to close ever since it first closed nine years ago,” said a spokesperson from the Mandate Trade Union which represents many of the staff.
“But the news was still a big shock and its loss will be a big blow to the Longwalk.”
The anchor store, which employs 20-25 staff from the local area, is popular with those who shop in the town centre so the announcement of its closure came as a shock to all especially the staff, who were told last Tuesday afternoon.
It is believed no jobs will be lost in the move.
“Staff are in complete shock and are obviously very upset by the whole ordeal,” the Mandate spokesman said.
“They have all been offered re-location to Penneys stores in the Marshes Shopping Centre, Drogheda and Navan.
“There are redundancy packages, but they are a last option,” he said.
Mr Paddy Malone, Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, said that even though the closure was regrettable, at least wage packets would remain in the town if a number of staff are transferred to premises at the Marshes Shopping Centre.
He pointed out that the spending power of one wage packet can sustain almost two jobs in the town.
Meanwhile, Green Party councillor Mark Dearey has called for a rethink on town centre planning.
He said Dundalk town centre is struggling to survive because of a real lack of guidance on retail planning.
Cllr Dearey is chairman of the town council’s planning committee.
“We need to re-think our whole outlook on planning,” Cllr Dearey said.
“The town centre needs rejuvenation. We need to develop a new centre. As chair of the council’s planning MPC I want to reverse decisions that have been made and re-write chapter four of the town’s development plan.”
News of the closure of Penneys at the Longwalk garnered huge reaction on the social newtworks in Dundalk last week with many lamenting the closure of the store and expressing fears for the future of the town centre.