The exterior of Athlone Towncentre shopping centre.

Plan for expanded fashion store in Athlone Towncentre

H&M, one of the anchor tenants in Athlone Towncentre, could be expanding in the near future as part of newly revealed proposals.

Designs have been lodged by Hurley Property ICAV, for and on behalf of its subfund National Property Fund, to amalgamate three units in the shopping centre into a single store for the Swedish fashion retailer.

Should it be approved, it would see unit 16, which is already occupied by H&M over two levels, amalgamate with unit 17, a ground floor unit, and unit 48 on the first floor, a space previously occupied by Pamela Scott before their relocation in the centre.

The change would accommodate a “single retail store which will be occupied by H&M,” according to a planning report lodged in support of the proposal. “H&M is one of the few comparison retail businesses actively expanding and opening new stores in Ireland despite the uncertain in-store retail environment post-Covid with online retailing growing exponentially to the detriment of high street stores,” the report added, explaining the rationale behind the project plans lodged to Westmeath County Council on March 20 last.

It also argued that facilitating the expansion of this long-term tenant for this retail space within Athlone Town centre was “critical to ensuring the ongoing success, vitality and viability” of the centre and will “sustain and increase” footfall through Athlone Civic Square, which in turn, would be of “broader benefit” to the town centre as a whole.

The modifications are entirely internal and will have no impact on the external town centre façade. No change in gross floor area is proposed as part of the application covering just over 1,499 square metres.

In the first set of quarterly results since Daniel Ervér took over as CEO, the Swedish fashion retailer reported an operating profit of SKr2.1 billion or €183 million in the three months to the end of February, compared with SKr725 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales in the period were SKr5.4 billion, a fall of 2%, but less that analysts had forecast for the clothing brand.

The company, which boasts over 4,300 stores in 77 different markets, including 14 in Ireland, has struggled to compete with lower-cost rivals like Zara in recent times. Despite this, the forecasts are increasingly upbeat and it is aiming to raise its operating profit margin to 10% this year – up from 6.2% in 2023.

A decision on the expanded Athlone store plan for H&M, the world's second-largest listed fashion retailer, is due by May 14 next.