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US chain to open flagship store on Grafton St
The Irish Times
Jack Fagan
March 13, 2009

American Apparel's decision to proceed with its Dublin store will be a major boost for Grafton Street at a time when the fortunes of the city's premier street seem to be in decline

THE US fashion giant Gap is to open its first Irish stand-alone store in Dundrum Town Centre while in Dublin city centre, the on-off plan by another US fashion multiple, American Apparel, to enter the market is finally to go ahead following the completion of contracts to rent a large store near the bottom of Grafton Street.

Despite the fall off in consumer spending, another newcomer, the Swedish-owned Marc O'Polo Clothing, is also opening its first Irish store after leasing the last remaining unit at The Pavilions in Swords.

Gap will be paying a rent of around €650,000 for 650sq m (7,000sq ft) on level two of the centre which is still trading strongly despite widespread pessimism among shoppers. The unit was previously occupied by a Mango franchisee.

Gap, which operates a concession in the basement of Arnotts on Henry Street, has become one of the most successful American brands in recent years, catering for women, men and children. The group's other brands include Banana Republic, Old Navy and Piper Line.

Another indication of the strong demand for space in Dundrum comes with news that there are at least 10 traders interested in taking over the Principals store there after a provisional liquidator was appointed to the fashion group last Thursday. Kevin Sweeney of letting agent Bannon said he expected to achieve a rent of around €500,000 for the 325sq m (3,500sq ft) unit.

American Apparel's decision to proceed with its Dublin store will be a major boost for Grafton Street at a time when its fortunes seem to be in decline. The group is due to begin work next week on fitting out the shop near the bottom of the street, opposite Trinity College.

Owners Irish Life Investment Managers spent over €4 million on remodelling and extending the former TSB Building which will have retail areas of 460sq m (almost 5,000sq ft) and three floors of storage. The floor of the old banking hall has been dropped to street level and two escalators have been installed, one to take shoppers to the new mezzanine level and the other to service the first floor.

EBS had been paying a rent of €490,000 per annum, reflecting a Zone A rate of €5,127 per sq m (€475 per sq ft). With the new letting completed on the basis of a headline rent of €800,000 per annum, the Zone A rate rises to €6,458 per sq m (over €600 per sq ft).

However, American Apparel,which had originally agreed to pay a higher rent of €860,000, managed to have it reduced to €800,000 before it signed contracts last week.

The company employs over 10,000 people in 260 stores across 19 countries. The chain already has 13 outlets in the UK, including Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Covent Garden.

American Apparel is best known for its basic cotton garments, such as T-shirts and underwear, but in recent years has expanded to include a wide range of clothing for men, women, children, babies and, yes it's true, dogs.

The company has attracted considerable attention because of its role in promoting immigrant rights and its claims that its workshops are "sweatshop-free".

Michael Harrington of HSBC negotiated the deal on behalf of Irish Life.

In Swords, Marc O'Polo Clothing will trade out of a store of 200sq m (2,153sq ft). Natalie Brennan of CB Richard Ellis says the company is interested in opening further shops in other prominent shopping centres around Dublin. Bannon advised the owners of The Pavilions on the deal.
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