The retail apocalypse is being predicted by analysts on a depressingly frequent basis. Perhaps that’s why an article from the Retail Gazette in the UK caught my eye recently with the headline, “Independent retail store openings soar as major chains face downturn”.

UK Study by

This study has found that independent stores are thriving and openings have grown in all but two of the UK’s regions. However chain store closures are a feature of all regions except one.

OnBuy managing director Cas Paton said, “Keen business men and women have their eye on vacant spaces across the country and we must support our local independents, bricks-and-mortar businesses. It’s the only way for retail to survive.” Amen to that!

The UK version of Amazon, Onbuy, is an interesting business which I’ll talk more about in a future blog.

And what about Ireland?

I hope that this trend has transferred across the Irish Sea. Whilst no similar study has been done here, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the number of independent retailers is increasing here also. Think about the growth of local coffee shops, artisan food shops, and boutiques that have sprung up in your neighbourhood.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to spotlight two such retailers, The Banyan Tree in Monkstown, Co Dublin, selling jewellery, crafts and gifts; and Siopashoo in Cahersiveen in Co Kerry, selling shoes and schoolwear. These are two very different types of shops, in very different locations, but both share a passion for their product and for being a retailer.

The Banyan Tree

About the owner, Ruth Hearns
I’ve had a very varied career, including but not limited to, working in the Blood Bank, a Travel Agency, owning a restaurant and working in Aer Lingus for 13 years.

The Banyan Tree stocks everything from Vintage Indian Sari Quilts to Dalkey Aromatics Candles, Children’s Clothes to beautiful leather bags and, of course, we have a huge range of unique handmade jewellery.

Why did you open your shop? Why pick retailing?
I started this business in 2011 after returning from a year in Thailand with my family. I’ve always loved jewellery so when I was trying to decide what to do next, it seemed like a good idea. I started with a €15 pasting table from Woodies, and began selling jewellery at a few markets and craft fairs. After a few months, I took a little wooden shed in the Tramyard in Dalkey and worked from there for 10 months until a ‘bricks and mortar’ shop came up to rent in the Tramyard. I stayed there for 4 years until I moved to my current location in The Crescent, Monkstown. As the business has grown, I have diversified into selling lots of different things. Anything really that I find beautiful, I buy and then hopefully sell!!

How did you choose the name for your shop?
I chose the name of the shop after I fell in love with Banyan Trees when I was travelling around Cambodia. They are stunning, great big trees with roots that stretch out all over the place. When I did a little research on them, I discovered that they were very significant to Hindus and Buddhists as they see them as protective and they ward off evil. They always build their community halls next to a Banyan Tree to protect the village. I liked all the symbolism around the name so that’s why I decided to use it.

What’s the best thing about being a retailer?
I love being a retailer. I particularly love when a customer comes in looking for something to match an outfit. As I’ve discovered, I’m really good at finding the perfect piece! I am very honest and will always say if I think something doesn’t go….. but I will always try to find something that will! As I source everything in the shop, I know all my stock inside out, often, right down to the maker’s backstory, which can be interesting! I love when a customer leaves the shop really happy with their purchase.

What’s the worst thing about being a retailer?
Obviously, the worst thing about being a retailer is the same for any self-employed person, making ends meet! I have grown my business from scratch, never borrowing but always reinvesting so I can grow.

What vision do you have for your business in, say, 3 years’ time?
Now that I think I have found the perfect location, my hope for the future is to continue to grow financially, building my brand and living happily ever after!!  🙂 Haha!


About the owner, Deirdre Garvey
My husband and I were living in Cork for 11 years, and as we’re both from Cahersiveen we always planned on coming home to live. When our little girl was born in 2013, we started to talk about the move more seriously. My husband works in the Civil Service, so he was able to apply for a transfer and was sure of a job somewhere in Kerry. My background is administrative work, and I have a degree in Marketing which I used only sparingly! I looked at the move back to Kerry as an opportunity, and I wanted to work for myself, but I wasn’t sure what I could do.

Siopashoo is an independent shoe shop in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. The shop stocks ladies, gents and children’s shoes, along with dancing shoes, school uniforms & school bags. Brands include Rieker, Ecco, Kate Appleby, S. Oliver and Marco Tozzi. The premises where Siopashoo operates was always a shoe shop – the previous business was called Step n’ Style, and was operated for over 40 years by Mrs Phil Curran. I took over the business in April 2017, and rebranded as Siopashoo. I brought in some new brands, and kept some existing brands.

Why did you open your shop? Why pick retailing?
I was looking for an opportunity – and retailing picked me! Step n’ Style was a crucial part of the community all through my childhood and beyond, but Phil was nearing retirement – so I took the plunge and spoke with her. I asked her that if she were thinking of stepping back from the business, that I would be interested in taking the business on. She was surprised (as I had no experience in retail or management, and was still living in Cork at this point!), but agreed to think about it. And the rest is history!

I’m the only shoe shop in the area, so this brings both opportunities and pressures. I’m talking to people every day I’m in the shop, and am always gauging the response to styles and brands. I feel the shop will always be evolving – this is the nature of fashion retailing.

How did you choose the name for your shop?
It was difficult, but fun also (like naming a child!). I wanted something that was not too formal, something that would appeal to women and men, and I wanted an element of Irish too. It was literally a case of sitting down on several occasions with a pen and paper, brainstorming, and saying the words out loud. I did ask my family for suggestions, some were hilarious, but unusable! I settled on Siopashoo: siopa – Irish for shop + shoo – the phonetic spelling of shoe.

What’s the best thing about being a retailer?
Meeting people, and seeing people so happy with their purchases. Retailing is a people business.

What’s the worst thing about being a retailer?
The hours can be long, so I’m still working on how to achieve a reasonable work / life balance.  And in fashion retailing you won’t always have what the customer wants. I found this difficult for the first few months, because when you’re an independent shop, and you work for yourself, you do everything: buying, accounting, shopkeeping etc etc – and when you don’t have what the customer wants, then it can feel like you’re not doing your job right. But now, a year into the business, I understand that it’s not possible to always have what everyone wants, and just keep learning from every interaction.

What vision do you have for your business in, say, 3 years’ time?
I learn every day I’m in the shop, so I plan to keep learning and keep listening to my customers. In three years’ time, I’ll have a permanent staff member who is passionate and engaging. I’ll be a whizz at my bookwork (my worst area). And I’ll have the shop redesigned. As regards the business itself, I want it to be profitable. I want to have a better understanding of the mix of brands and price points that work for my customers – this is an ongoing learning process! And I’m always open to new ideas as regards the services and stock the shop offers, so who knows what the next few years will bring!

Small is beautiful

As I mentioned in last month’s blog about disruption in the Irish retail market, small is beautiful. It can be easier for smaller retailers to innovate as larger retailers lack the flexibility to react quickly to changing market conditions.  Ruth’s example of starting her retail business from a pasting table in a market shows that, with a passion for your product and a willingness to start lean and work hard, you can make a success of your retail business.

Independent retailers are closer to their customer base than larger chains. Deirdre has found this out the hard way by realising that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. From listening to her customers and responding to their needs Deirdre is developing a loyal customer base and finding out what will sell and what won’t. Finally, while it might seem obvious to say – independent retailers have more independence!  Ruth and Deirdre don’t have to consult with any higher-ups about purchasing or relocation decisions, they buy the products they love and move when the right opportunity comes along.

Happy retailing!
© Retail Renewal 13/04/18

Retail Renewal offers a comprehensive retail consulting service. Find out more on If you’d like to get in touch with me about your shop or retail project please give Linda a call on 086 8146949.

Retail Gazette article


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