The future of famous family-run store is secured
The sale of Ireland's oldest department store marks the continuing demise of independent retailing here - but has secured the future of Austins of Derry, sources have said.
Speculation has been rife for months that family-owned Austins had been seeking a new owner, and over the weekend unfounded rumours emerged that the company had called in the administrators.
However, good news emerged after a reliable source close to the Hasson family owners told the Belfast Telegraph: "The future of Austins is now safe."
It is believed that a 'consensual' deal to save the business - Ireland's oldest department store that has been trading at the Diamond since 1907 - was brokered on Friday.
It is understood that both the business and the elegant Edwardian building are now under new ownership.
Austins is one of the best known buildings in Derry city centre and the store has belonged to the Hasson family for almost four decades.
This will bring to an end months of speculation that major changes at the business were imminent.
Luke and Declan Hasson took over the running of Austins from their father Larry when he retired. Neither were available for interview when contacted.
Business expert Donald McFetridge said he would not be surprised to hear Austins had been sold, but remarked it would be the end of an era of family-owned department stores.
He added: "In my opinion, the days of the independently-owned and run department store are indubitably numbered.
"Some are of the view that a leading store group like John Lewis or Selfridges have bought Austins; I would respectfully comment that I would be most surprised were this to turn out to be the case."