Clery's summer sales

Clery's summer sales

In Brief

In Lotus Eaters Bloom reads an ad for a summer sale held in Clery's (often spelled with no apostrophe), a large department store on Lower Sackville (O'Connell) Street. Gerty MacDowell thinks happily of these annual sales in Nausicaa. They were important events on women's annual calendars.

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Reading from a poster on the corner of Westland Row and Great Brunswick Street, Bloom thinks, "Clery's Summer Sale." He does not think of the store again, but Gerty dreams of owning "that silver toastrack in Clery’s summer jumble sales like they have in rich houses," and she is wearing a straw hat that she searched long and hard for: "at last she found what she wanted at Clery’s summer sales, the very it, slightly shopsoiled but you would never notice, seven fingers two and a penny."

In an 11 September 2016 article in the Irish Times, Arminta Wallace writes that "Department store sales were once the most important fixtures in the Dublin shopping calendar – eagerly anticipated events that drew customers from all over the country." The 1965 photograph by Dermot Barry accompanying her article gives a vivid sense of this intensity: "

First impressions are of a cornucopia of chaos. Clocks and fabric swatches; coats and travel rugs; towels and umbrellas. That’s without speculating on the contents of the boxes of various shapes and sizes piled, surely, up beyond the reach of human arms. Shoes? Handkerchiefs? Shirts? It must have taken considerable skill on the part of the staff to lay hands on anything in particular. / As for the customers, they’re not browsing: they’re hunting. They are women on a mission. / On the bottom right of the image, one shopper is having her bargain wrapped. Halfway up, to the left of the pillar, another ponders a potential purchase, hand to her chin in classic 'what shall I do?' pose. To her left, observe the little girl, smiling up at the woman who is assessing some piece of clothing for size or quality."

"It is still hard to believe that Clerys has gone," Wallace writes. "This was one of the first purpose-built department stores in the world, its Corinthian columns and sweeping staircases seemingly as much a part of O’Connell Street as the trees and statues outside." The department store survived bankruptcy proceedings in 1879 and 1940, as well as the pulverizing shelling of O'Connell Street in 1916, to last into the 21st century. But a final receivership begun in 2012 spelled the end of this shoppers' mecca. It closed its doors in 2015 and the building has been sold to developers.

JH 2022
 Print showing Clery's store on page 11 of Dignam's Dublin Guide (1891), by James Dignam, held in the British Library. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
 Dermot Berry's 1965 photograph of a Clery's sale. Source:
 The Clery's department store in 1853, the year it opened for business.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
 Clery's as rebuilt in 1922 (after the Easter Rising) and restored in 2004, in a 2006 photograph taken by GrahamH. Source: Wikimedia Commons.