herald

Sunday 24 September 2017

What makes Avoca unique?

1 I think it is the mixture and the way the pieces are put together that makes Avoca unique. The individual elements may be similar to other retailers but no one else has put them together or under one roof the way we have. There is an element of a day out, an element of theatre, eating-in, food to go and retail which makes us a bit different to most high street retails.

2How has Avoca managed to succeed in an extremely depressed Irish economy?

Avoca has found it tough, too, along with other retailers but we do have some characteristics that have insulated us a bit.

We are small enough and hands on enough to react to changing needs of our customers.

For example, when we saw interest in our food-to-go ranges grow as people cut back on going out, we reacted to this by growing this range. We try to do things properly often the long-hand way.

In a recession, people will go to brands they trust to deliver value, which is a quality/price dynamic, not just price.

3 Who is Avoca's target customer? Our key customers are Irish women from 25 to 75. They sometimes come on their own, sometimes with their family and sometimes with friends or their overseas visitors.

4 What is the split in Avoca's sales between its restaurants and non-food items?

Overall sales are approx €50m. €40m of that is shops and cafes and €10m wholesale fashion and furnishings.

Of the €40m, it's approx a third cafes, a third food hall and a third non food.

5 How much of the food and other merchandise sold through Avoca outlets is sourced in Ireland?

I don't know an exact percentage but it is very high as we make over 90pc of the fresh food product in our own kitchens and bakeries and those sales account for a significant amount of our sales. We also try to buy as much Irish product and from Irish suppliers as possible.

6Does Avoca manufacture any of the non-food items sold in its stores and if so how much?

We still run a weaving mill in Avoca Village which can produce about €2m per annum worth of throws, blankets and scarves.

All the fashion and giftware are designed in house, led by my sister Amanda, but is manufactured principally in Italy and Latvia.

7 What proportion of the non-food items sold by Avoca are designed by the company?

All Avoca branded goods are designed in house. We also stock plenty of other brands and lines.

8 Does Avoca have any plans to expand outside the island of Ireland?

At the moment not for our own retail stores although we are constantly working on overseas wholesale markets.

9 Is Avoca still largely family run?

There are six family directors and all hands on responsible for distinct areas.

I'm CEO. My father Donald runs the garden centres.

My mother Hilary is responsible for our jewellery business.

My sister Amanda is design director and runs the anthology clothing range

My brother Ivan runs Nest, our home furnishing and gift range

My sister Vanessa runs the non food retail. All of us sit on the board and are actively involved

10Are there any other retail organiSations -- Irish or foreign -- which you admire or try to follow?

I like ABC Carpet and Home in New York and LA Fromagerie and Ottolenghi Delis in London and Conran and Paul Smith.

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