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Speculation mounts over new owners of former Linton & Robinson store

Thursday, 3 August 2017

SPECULATION is rife in Strabane that the Linton & Robinson store has been sold to a furniture company.

However as news of the sale gathered pace locally, the agents behind the sale of the famous store are remaining tight-lipped this week about who the new owners might be.

The former department store on the town's Abercorn Square, was initially put on the market back in 2013 after the company went into liquidation and while offers were thought to have been made, none reached the desired asking price.

It is understood several prospective buyers have viewed the site since then with various plans to develop it into a multi-store, but to date, no firm proposals have made their way into the public domain.

Concern has also been raised in the past that the longer it lay vacant the less attractive it might become. It is understood the building which is approximately 28,242 sq ft could be used for several purposes.

The shop has a long and interesting story to tell.

Linton & Robinson began trading as a hardware store in the 1950s and was incorporated in December 1973. In 1954 a Mr Boggs sold the business to two brothers, Ronnie and Hill Robinson, and their friend Sam Linton. 'Linton and Robinson' was born. Ronnie Robinson was a carpet seller and his brother, Hill Robinson, was an expert on hardware - both men had been trained at Simpson and Hill's of Coleraine. Sam Linton's passion was for farm machinery, so from the start Linton and Robinson had an eclectic mix of products.

It has remained mainly in the hands of the original founding families since its incorporation. The business was originally established to sell hardware and tools and over the years branched out into the sale of furniture and housewares as well as the construction of milking parlours, slurry tank and aeration services and renewable energy systems. It was involved in all of these activities until it ceased trading.

 

The original part of the building has quite a history; in the early part of the last century it was a hotel, called 'The Temperance Hotel'. Then later on it became a hardware shop, owned by Jack Boggs, who went on to set up the auctioneers business in Strabane.

Over the years the business thrived but like so many others in recent times, the recession and downturn in the econmy hit hard.

In recent years, the family-owned firm has struggled amid falling customer numbers. In 2010, plans to develop Linton and Robinson to an online-only business were abandoned, with the company instead opting to maintain its two stores with a reduced workforce.

The administrators were called in back in 2013 and the premises closed.

According to their reports at that time, the company struggled with an increase in debt between 2005 and 2007. This was because of the costs of a refurbishment of its flagship store at Abercorn Square and the start of construction of a new hardware store and office facility at its Dock Street premises as the result of an arson attack.

Linton & Robinson also was hit by falling revenues and delays in payments being received from its debtors. This made it more difficult for it to meet its loan obligations and requests from trade creditors for payments for supplies to be made in advance.

It restructured its facilities with the bank in January 2013 but trade continued to fall and the directors decided to place the company into administration.

There has been speculation locally that a high end furniture company with other stores throughout Northern Ireland were the front runners to buy the iconic premises but at time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday) the auctioneers, Belfast firm, Osboourne King, had not confirmed who the new owner might be.

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