Take inspiration from how other retailers are using Irish craft to grow their business.
Irish Craft Collective at Arnotts
In 2012 Arnotts launched their Irish Craft Collective outlet, which brings together 23 Irish designers under one umbrella brand and covers disciplines including glassware, pottery, weaving, textiles, home accessories, stone, jewellery and wall art.
Developed in conjunction with the Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI), the idea was to give small Irish craftmakers the opportunity to become listed in a department store, a process that Paula McCoy, homeware buyer with Arnotts, says is often prohibitive for small makers working on their own. By combining a number of craftmakers under one brand, the Irish Craft Collective enables makers to pool their resources and work together for maximum exposure.
Paula says that there is a growing appetite among customers for Irish products, particularly in the gifting market where people want to ensure the crafts they give and receive are made in Ireland. Most customers of the Irish Craft Collective are based in Ireland, which reflects the increasing popularity for Irish craft at home and not just in the tourist market.
In March 2013, Arnotts built on their reputation as champions of Irish design with a campaign to promote Irish craft using the 'Imagined Designed Made in Ireland' branding. Activities included live window displays, with craftmakers getting their hands dirty and making their products in Arnotts windows, and a series of events such as evening workshops with makers.
Paula says there was a conscious decision to feature new and unknown designers rather than those with already established names. She hopes that the Irish Craft Collective will expand to include new makers and is planning more events around Irish Design 2015.
Irish Design Shop
The Irish Design Shop was set up in 2008 by Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey. Originally online only, it is now situated on Drury Street in Dublin and comprises a full retail space on the ground floor, Clare and Laura’s jewellery workshop on the first floor and a shared studio space on the second floor.
The shop went through several iterations before its current incarnation. Shortly after setting up their online store, Clare and Laura ran a pop-up shop in the Powerscourt Centre which convinced them of the need for a permanent outlet so customers could touch products before buying. Their first location was Bow Lane East, which they eventually decided was too much off the beaten track. In early 2013 they moved to Drury Street, a location chosen because of its higher footfall and the potential for window displays to entice customers.
The Irish Design Shop now features work from more than 50 craftmakers from all over Ireland, all handpicked by Clare and Laura based on aesthetics, craftsmanship, seasonality and fit with existing products. They are also conscious of providing a good range of price points, from €5 to €250. The pair source new craftmakers through a mix of proactively going out and looking, doing online searches and being approached by the makers themselves.
Social media is important to the business, with the Clare and Laura maintaining an active Twitter and Facebook presence, which they say is ideal for promoting upcoming events straight into people’s newsfeeds. The website is also important and the pair ensure the products are photographed well and stories are included about the makers. While there still is an online shop, this is often used more as a publicity tool with people browsing products before coming into the shop to make the actual purchase.
Workshops on crafts such as metalwork provide an additional income stream as well as a potential new source of customers for the shop itself. Links with organisations such as Merrion Square Foundation and the Irish Architecture Foundation also increase their networks of people who are interested in Irish design.
The biggest challenge is keeping the product range fresh, particularly as there is now more competition from other retailers than when they started out. One way they are tackling this is by developing a range of products exclusive to their shop, while also bearing in mind craftmakers’ needs to balance exclusive offerings with getting the widest audience for their work.
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