Austins: Jobs fear as landmark department store closes its doors

Austins was founded in 1830 and was the world's oldest independent department store.

Austins was founded in 1830 and was the world's oldest independent department store.

Reports have circulated this morning that Austins - a landmark in the centre of Londonderry and Ireland’s oldest department store - has closed its doors and staff have been told they have lost their jobs.

The store, in the Diamond, did not open for business this morning and shutters remain down.

Austins is a landmark building in our city and to see its doors close marks a very sad day for us all.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton told the ‘ Derry Journal’ that staff had been called to a meeting this morning to be told the store would cease trading with immediate effect and that their P45s were being prepared.

Mr Middleton described the news as a “devastating blow for the city and especially for the staff members who yesterday had a job and were this morning given the news that they their jobs are gone.

“Austins is a landmark building in our city and to see its doors close marks a very sad day for us all. Our thoughts most first and foremost be with the people who were told this morning they are out of work and we must do all we can to support them in the coming days.”

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sinead McLaughlin added: “It is terribly sad news that Austins has closed its doors. We will all wish that action can be taken to save a business that is an icon for Derry. We wish everyone involved in the store well and we know how committed Austins’ staff are to the business.

“Traditional department stores have had difficulty in surviving. This is not unique to Austins or to Derry. Department stores have been closing right across Great Britain and Ireland. It is a sector that has struggled to survive modern retailing trends.

“That said, the difficulties faced by Austins underline the need for greater action to be taken by our politicians and other policy makers to protect and nurture our city centres. The city centre is the hub of our retailing sector, but it is also much more important than that. It is both an economic and social centre for our society. Action is therefore essential to ensure that it survives and thrives, despite modern retailing challenges such as the internet and out of town shopping centres.”