TWO of the country’s biggest retail giants went head to head last week over plans to extend Kildare Village.
The hearing heard that the extension would yield 380 new jobs and 120 construction posts in a E50m investment.
The An Bord Pleanala oral hearing heard how the Kildare Tourist Outlet, which currently employs 629 people, would result in an extra E5.5m being injected into the economy in wages, if allowed to expand.
Director of Value Retail, Chris Harris also noted it would result in a once-off development levy payment of E650,000 for Kildare County Council as well as an annual rate of E240,000.
Whitewater Shopping Centre, who requested the hearing, claim 67% of money spent by Kildare people in the Village will be drawn from Newbridge. John Spain representing the shopping centre told the hearing the Village would have mass appeal with out of town parking and motorway access.
It would have a significant adverse impact on Whitewater and Newbridge, he claimed
The Village is part of Value Retail’s international portfolio of nine tourist outlets including villages near Bicester in England, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Milan, Frankfurt, and Munich.
“The proposed additional space created by the extension will not only make Kildare Village financially sustainable in the long term, but importantly also secure the jobs of those currently employed at Kildare Village, whilst at the same time further establishing it as a leading international tourist destination for Ireland,” pronounced Scott Malkin, Chairman of Value Retail Group worldwide, who flew in from Haiti.
“Those are not just words. We do not make money in Kildare Village today. We will if we can expand.”
He sees China as a major potential source of international tourists.
He stressed the Village was performing second best to Bicester ahead of 48 other outlets in the UK, which suggests it has potential.
Chris Harris said the “range of products very restricted” and “in no way can Kildare Village compete with the full range of shopping facilities and services provided by a major town centre such as Newbridge,” The Village says that 80% of visitors come from outside the county.
Tesco, which is a neighbour of the Village, has stated it welcomes the development once the enhanced access and pedestrian links are improved.
Value Retail has refined plans for links to the town centre and Tesco. It has also modified the northern block in a bid to satisfy the council.
Representing Kildare County Council, Marion R Chalmers said the proposed development would not have “a negative retail or cumulative impact on any centre in the county or beyond its boundaries.”
Barrister Eamon Galligan outlined Whitewater’s concern that the data used for visitor numbers were taken from one survey at peak time in July and would not give an accurate picture all year round. Retail expert, Larry Brennan, Chairman and Head of Commercial Savills Ireland, who is also retained as asset manger for one of the co-owners of Whitewater, outlined how sales at the Tommy Hilfiger franchise at Whitewater plummeted by 51% since a Tommy Hilfiger store opened in the Village. On Tuesday April 30, staff were informed the Whitewater Store would be closing as a result.
He outlined how some customers even arrived at Clarks in the Whitewater to get their feet measured and then travel on to the Village to buy their shoes.
He said Whitewater competes directly with Kildare Village for consumers.
“There is a significant greying of what is considered the outlet market and full priced retailing,” he noted.
He pointed out there were four brands located at both centres - Coast, Tommy Hilfiger, Karen Millen and Clarks.
Representing the outlet, barrister Michael O’Donnell said there was no evidence that the Village’s Tommy Hilfiger store caused the closing of the Whitewater store. The hearing continues until Wednesday May 7.
- Niamh O’Donoghue