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Doors close on Aherns reign

AFTER seventy-seven years in retailing, Aherns’ decision to sell to David Jones has marked the end of an era for Australia’s last family-owned department store.

A planned $100 million redevelopment of Aherns city store will almost double the floor space by incorporating the adjoining Savoy Hotel site.

It is anticipated the David Jones outlet will be fully completed by 2002, creating 350 new jobs.

The company is expected to take operational control of Aherns in February.

Aherns managing director Robyn Ahern said the family-based business structure was

significant, but not pivotal, in the ongoing success of the business.

“Being a family-run business gave us the luxury of being able to make long-term decisions and keep shareholders happy without having to report to the market and publish our results,” Ms Ahern said.

“There was the family name to uphold as well. My name will remain above the door until the integration of David Jones, which I intend to oversee.”

Ms Ahern said the company was setting up share buy-back schemes when the $29 million offer was made.

“In all business, you need to know when to get out to retain the value of the business for your shareholders,” she said.

Retail Traders’ Association of WA manager Brian Reynolds said, while the disappearance of the WA icon was sad, there would be improved choice and the continuation of Aherns’ customer service standards.

“The return of David Jones to the Perth retailing scene will provide incentives to existing retailers to examine current operations to meet increased competition – a process that will benefit Perth consumers,” Mr Reynolds said.

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