In a shock announcement this week it was revealed that Marks & Spencer, Mullingar would cease to trade, with the loss of 54 full and part-time jobs.
The store was closed on Wednesday as staff were informed of the decision which was made after a strategic review of M&S stores across the Republic of Ireland was carried out.
The Mullingar store, which includes a clothing department, groceries, and a coffee shop, reopened on Thursday morning and will officially close on Saturday August 17.
A spokeperson for M&S said that engagement with trade unions and staff had already commenced and that “Employees will be supported fully during this process and unions will be fully engaged with regards to the redundancy terms and conditions.”
Speaking after the announcement, president of Mullingar Chamber Pat Whelan said, “My first thoughts are with the people who have lost their jobs...and their families. Such short notice for such bad news has left the staff shocked and devastated.”
Mr Whelan went on to say that “VAT, rent reviews, and austerity have all combined to crucify retailers. They need action, the Government must look at reducing VAT and other policies to help reinvigorate the retail industry in the upcoming budget.”
The president of the chamber went on to highlight postive businesses moves in the town ensuring that the chamber of commerce, Westmeath Community Development, the IDA are all working non-stop to bring industry and employment to the town.
“There are businesses opening in town too - Midas Technologies, a new pharmacy on Austin Friar Street, and a second Aldi store coming onto the Dublin Road, as well as vacant premises being occupied quickly by new business. I would hope that there will be innovative budget changes to support retailers and give these businesses, employing local people a real chance,” he concluded.
Local Mullingar TD Robert Troy also expressed his concerns with the news that the M&S store will close.
“My thoughts are with the staff at Marks & Spencer in Mullingar and their families at this difficult and challenging time,” said Deputy Troy.
“Mullingar is a great town. Businesses are working hard to keep their doors open by embracing innovative and creative ideas to get and keep customers. But businesses do feel letdown by the Government. We need to tackle things like increasing rent, rates, and energy costs - they nee support from the Government and banks,” he added.