Brown Thomas

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Brown Thomas
Industry Retail
Founded 1848; 169 years ago (1848) in Dublin, Ireland
Founders Hugh Brown and James Thomas
Headquarters Ireland
Area served
Key people
Galen Weston
Products Upscale Department store
Owner Weston Family, Wittington Investments
Brown Thomas in Dublin

Brown Thomas & Company Limited is a chain of four Irish department stores, located in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Limerick. Owned by Wittington Investments, Brown Thomas is an upmarket chain, akin to Canada's Holt Renfrew chain, Britain's Selfridges stores and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, all of whom controlled by the Weston family.[1]


The Dublin store was opened by Hugh Brown at 16 Grafton Street in 1848. The following year, with James Thomas, he expanded into No.17. By the mid-1850s, they had also bought number 15 and enlarged the shop further. The company was purchased by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1919 and operated as a branch of Selfridge Provincial Stores until 1933, when it was sold to John McGuire, who had made his name in Clerys.

In the 1960s, the company went public on the Irish Stock Exchange. In 1971, Galen Weston bought a share in the company and in 1983 bought the balance of the shares, and Brown Thomas became private again.

In 1989, the company attempted to buy the Switzer Group, which included Switzers in Dublin, along with its sister stores Cashs of Cork, Moons of Galway and Todds of Limerick from House of Fraser but was outbid by the Ewart Group from Belfast. Ewart subsequently failed, as the deal could not be financed, allowing Brown Thomas to make a second bid in November 1990, which was accepted. The acquisition was subsequently completed on 16 April 1991.

In 1994, Brown Thomas sold its original store to Marks & Spencer for £20m and took over the lease of the then M&S store at 28/29 Grafton Street, which is now BT2. This transaction was completed on 11 February 1995.

The two Dublin stores merged in Switzer's location on 14 February 1995, but under the name Brown Thomas. Cashs, Moon's and Todd's continued until 1998, however between 1998 and 2000 were all rebranded Brown Thomas. BT2 meanwhile opened in 1998.

The company also owned the A-wear retail chain until June 2007. The Brown Thomas Group sold A-wear for €70m to a management buyout (MBO) team, which was backed by UK private equity firm Alchemy Partners. It is understood that Brown Thomas had expected to get €85m for the A-wear business, but later settled for the lower sum.

Dublin store[edit]

The 130,000-square-foot (12,000 m2) Dublin Store on Grafton Street is the chain's flagship location. It includes boutiques for Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Gucci, Armani Cosmetics, Jo Malone, Charlotte Tilbury, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, and the like. The store is split over 4 levels, with Menswear on the lower ground floor, the Beauty Hall and Accessories Hall on the Ground Floor, the Designer Rooms and Shoe Rooms on Level 1, Womenswear and Lingerie on Level 2 and the Living Department and the Children's Rooms on Level 3.[2]

Other store information[edit]

The stores appeal to a wide audience, selling both prêt-à-porter and haute couture clothing and accessories. The downstairs menswear section of the Dublin branch has been recently renovated. Ralph Lauren, Gant, Hugo Boss, Paul Smith, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada are some of the brands that can be found in the new men's basement area. Both the restaurant and cafe are now located together on the top floor of the store.[3][4]

Previously connected to the Dublin branch was Aya Sushi Bar,[5] on Clarendon Street. This was a conveyor-belt sushi bar, and a stop here provided some respite from shopping in the area. This closed in January 2009. In May 2009, a branch of Yo! Sushi opened at the same location.[6] [7]


Brown Thomas also operates the BT2 chain, which it launched in 1995, located in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Dundrum Town Centre and Henry Street. The store on Grafton Street was closed on 29 August 2016. These stores have more mass market clothes aimed at the 18-35 market, such as Ralph Lauren, Original Penguin, G-star and FennWrightManson. BT2 also sells a wide range of cosmetics. Paris Hilton chose BT2 as the launch site of her perfume Heiress by Paris Hilton.[8]


  • Dublin - 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2)
  • Cork - 57,000 square feet (5,300 m2)
  • Limerick - 43,000 square feet (4,000 m2)
  • Galway - 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2)

Revenues for 2009 were €203m, down from €246m the previous year and €272m in 2007. Profits fell to €2.7m from €14.7m the previous year and €23.1m in 2007.


  • 3 (see section 4, factual background)
  • 4

Further reading[edit]