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Korky’s shuts iconic Dublin Henry St shoe shop as owner says city ‘hollowed out’

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John Corcoran, who first opened the shoe shop there in 1984, said sales had collapsed due to online trading and the proliferation of suburban shopping centres, and because Dublin city centre “has been hollowed out for retail”.

Mr Corcoran, who has been selling shoes in Dublin since he opened a stall in 1978, sold 200,000 pairs a year at the peak of his business. At one time he had six stores, including on Grafton Street and at the Ilac Centre, which closed three years ago. Now he has one remaining outlet, in Dundrum.

The businessman fought a high-profile campaign against upward-only rent reviews on Grafton Street when the annual bill for his shop there went from €210,000 a year to €445,000 in 2005. The store closed in 2013.

He says rent was not a problem at the Henry Street outlet, but the annual rates bill of €40,000 was a serious hindrance. Korky’s had reduced the opening hours of 9am to 6pm to 10.30am to 6pm, with no late opening on Thursday. Other businesses in Dublin city centre are doing the same, as it means having just one shift a day for shop workers.

“Rates are out of sync with the reality of bricks-and-mortar retail,” said Mr Corcoran, who pointed out that the Henry Street store was a modest 800 sqft unit. “Forty years ago when we opened there, we used to do IR£1m (€1.27m) a year. Towards the end we would be lucky to do €300,000. So the turnovers were demolished.

“It’s critical to get rates into line with the new reality of retail, which is very difficult. The government is not responding quickly enough to how much retail is in decline. It’s similar in Dundrum, where the rates are high, and going higher, which we are appealing.”

Ronan Keating worked in Korky’s before finding fame as a singer

As well as being known as a haunt of mods and rockers in search of fashionable shoes, Korky’s on Henry Street was a former place of employment for the singer Ronan Keating, and there is a plaque over the door marking his stint there as a 14-year-old.

Mr Corcoran (71) says he intends to continue trading at Dundrum and hopes to be able to hand over the business to his nephew. He had planned to retire before the financial crash, which wiped out the balance sheet, and says Korky’s has never been profitable since.

“We were struggling with trying to downsize, get rid of shops, negotiate with landlords to do a deal and get out,” he said. “My nephew may be able to knock a living out of our last shop, but it’s not certain there’s a living in it. Bricks-and-mortar footwear shops are in decline everywhere because of the internet.”

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