The move makes Mothercare the first major retail chain in Ireland to point the finger of blame squarely at Covid-19.
Mothercare is to liquidate its 14-store Irish portfolio, after weeks of disruption caused by the coronavirus lockdowns ultimately proved too much for it to cope with.
The specialist baby and kids retailer wound up the last of its UK stores in January, following increasing competition from online and rising costs, but Mothercare Ireland – largely insulated from the challenging UK conditions and able to benefit from the healthy and fast growing Irish economy – had been able to keep trading.
However, supply chain disruption early in the year, followed by the shuttering of its 14 stores and the impact on the Irish economy, have seen the franchise take what MD Jonathan Ward has referred to as “an unprecedented hit”. In a statement, he said: “What has become clear over recent weeks is that store sales are going to continue to be seriously impacted in the short term whilst social distancing measures are in place and longer term as consumer habits permanently change.”
The move will leave 197 Mothercare Ireland employees without a job, although the retailer still operates around 1,000 franchise stores overseas. In December, Mothercare announced that it had struck a deal with Boots to become its exclusive franchisee in the UK – but the coronavirus has also caused major setbacks to the partnership. In March, Mothercare said it was on track to finalise contractual agreements with Boots, but that “there have inevitably been some delays as a result of the operational priorities forced upon both businesses by Covid-19”. With all non-essential retailers now allowed to reopen, it remains to be seen how the deal will progress.