It is never a good day when any business in Ireland has to close.

But when that business has been operating here for the guts of three decades and employs nearly 600 people, it's particularly sad and worrying.

Today Argos announced that in five months’ time, its 34 stores around the country will close their doors and the staff will lose their jobs.

The company wasn’t putting anyone forward for interview today but did release a reasonably comprehensive statement giving some clues as to why it has lost faith in Ireland.

It said it had arrived at the decision "following a long period of careful consideration and a thorough review of its business and operations in the country."

"Argos concluded the investment required to develop and modernise the Irish part of its business was not viable and that the money would be better invested in other parts of its business."

The company has been operating here since 1996 when it opened stores in Dublin and Limerick.

Its brand quickly became synonymous with its weighty paper catalogue, packed full of products which could be picked up over the counter in-store, once you had filled in a paper slip and paid for it at a till.

The product range, while not exhaustive, was extensive, and included everything from furniture and electronics, to children’s toys, jewellery and much, much more.

You couldn’t really see and touch the goods before you bought them, but nevertheless the process was straightforward and at times there was value on offer.

Over the years, the model didn’t change massively.

Dozens more stores were added.

The company developed a website-based catalogue and in time added the ability to order online for home delivery for some (but not all) products or click and collect in store.

Stock levels in individual stores could also be checked.

But ostensibly, the bricks and mortar proposition remained the same.

Stores remained located in prime locations in main streets, shopping centres and retail parks on the edge of towns.

The footprint of those stores was by virtue of the storage space required pretty large, attracting sizeable rents that in many cases were presumably upward only.

Yet the world of retail has moved on.

Online has become as important a channel as physical stores and competition is fierce, particularly for a business like Argos that’s competing in so many product areas.

Meanwhile, those who do continue to go shopping in the real world want to be able to touch and see and experience - something Argos doesn’t offer.

In the UK, Argos changed with the times, so that it now has four fifths of its 1,000 outlets co-located with parent Sainsbury’s stores.

422 shops are in a Sainsbury’s outlet. More than 400 other Sainsbury’s have Argos Click and Collect counters.

The synergies and efficiencies are obvious. The rent, property and operating costs can be shared.

Supply chains and logistics for both shops can be integrated.

There’s even an opportunity for shared staffing.

The strategy has worked and Argos says operations in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales are performing well.

But that revolution hasn’t happened here, and can’t, as Sainsbury’s does not operate in the Republic of Ireland.

Sources said the challenges were likely exacerbated by a series of recent events.

Brexit created massive supply chain headaches for companies like Argos that have to bring in many goods from the UK.

The pandemic crippled retailers everywhere for the best part of two years.

While the recent cost inflation experienced by us all coupled with rising interest rates has put the price of doing business up at the same time as it has supressed demand.

So Argos was left with a tricky choice.

Continue with a legacy operation, facing many challenges, which last year made a pre-tax loss of €13m.

Or invest an unspecified but likely large amount of money into redesigning the Irish network for the future.

Or close some or all of it for good.

Sadly for the staff, many of whom have worked for the company for an extended period of time, the last option was the one the parent chose.

Staff have known for some time that things weren’t all rosy.

In the last two years the company had already closed several stores and had announced it was shutting more.

Nonetheless, the workers’ union Mandate said the extent of today’s announcement came as a shock.

And the result of the decision will come as a major blow.

The stores will all be closed by June 24th and another long-standing landmark in the Irish retail landscape, appreciated by many, will be gone.

As will the livelihoods of almost 600 people.