Retail has hit the headlines again with the news of Mike Ashley taking over House of Fraser. His aspiration is to make it the “Harrods of the High Street”. Changing the direction of any big company is like plotting a new course for a super-tanker. It’s slow and takes time to change direction.  And there are many reasons (which you’ll be glad to know I won’t be exploring here) that House of Fraser was saddled with £400M of loans as it attempted to trade its way out of trouble. I hazard a guess that it will take more than the injection of a few luxury brands to solve HoF’s woes.

House of Fraser and other big name retailers have been in business for decades and even centuries in some cases. In today’s fast moving retail world you need to be nimble and adaptable to stay ahead of the curve and, sometimes, just to stay in business. Independent retailers have proved that they are both. As quoted in a previous blog post a study by OnBuy has shown that independent retailer numbers are growing in the UK while their larger neighbours are closing stores.

There is no doubt that Ireland has also seen an upsurge in the number of independent retailers. A recovering economy and house market has contributed to this.  This blog post features two more independent retailers who are making it work. Nimble Fingers has been around for almost 60 years and Hogan’s Farm Shop is a recent offshoot of an existing business.

Nimble Fingers

Nimble Fingers Stillorgan

About the owners, Patrick, Gareth and Katherine Staunton

Patrick Staunton and his wife, Jean, took over the shop in 1983. Patrick travelled to the Nuremberg Toy Fair and brought back toys that had never been seen in Ireland, sparking a researcher in RTE to develop the idea for the Late Late Toy Show. While Patrick is still involved in the business, the day to day operations are run by his children, Gareth and Katherine, who picks up the story.

Why did you open your shop? Why pick retailing?

Nimble Fingers was established in 1962. Our father bought it in 1983. He was always fascinated with toyshops growing up. On trips to Dublin from Westport he loved going to Geary’s on St. Stephen’s Green. Before I came along, he often visited Nimble Fingers with my three siblings. He noticed its potential so when the shop came up for sale he sold his publishing business and didn’t think twice.

How did you choose the name for your shop?

When Nimble Fingers was established they sold mainly craft items and knitting materials, and because we continue to stock such materials it still works. But it also conveys the use of fine motor skills, which a lot of our toys encourage the development of. I don’t think we could possibly change the name now 56 years into business!

What’s the best thing about being a retailer?

Where do I start! Seeing the excitement on children’s faces as they walk through the door never gets old. Knowing that they are creating memories similar to that of their nostalgic parents and grandparents is wonderful to watch unfold. The kids that come in can be hilarious, meeting so many on a daily basis is great fun.

We have a lot of regular customers who have been shopping here for so many years, decades in some cases. These customers have great memories of Nimble Fingers. I adore hearing these stories. When our customers are satisfied it gives us a great sense of pride and it doesn’t seem like work at all. We have a reputation for customer service, so maintaining those relationships really makes us feel good.

What’s the worst thing about being a retailer?

Like any industry, retail can be stressful at times. We are occasionally let down by suppliers, and in turn our customers are then let down. For me this is the worst part of the job. I do think we are very lucky with our customers though, and we often discuss how pleasant they are. It being our father’s business also puts pressure on us to maintain it as well as he did. I think overall though he is happy with how we operate.

What vision do you have for your business for the future?

Gareth and I recently launched a new website which has been going well so we will continue to grow that while also focusing on developing the shop. It looks like Stillorgan will transform vastly over the coming years, and there will always be a need for toys, so I think we will be staying where we are and sticking to what we know. The tradition we have is so good, keeping that is more important to us than looking for something new.
Read more about the fascinating history of this business.

Hogan’s Farm Shop

Hogan's Farm Shop

About the owners, Fintan and Paul Hogan

Hogan’s Farm is a family business run by brothers Fintan and Paul Hogan and established in 1979 in the current location by their parents, Martin and Teresa Hogan. The farming tradition began in 1955 when Martin and Teresa started a dairy farm nearby, where Teresa started rearing turkeys for the Christmas market in 1962. The main activity now is the rearing and processing of turkeys for the domestic market. The Farm Shop opened in 2014 and is managed by Sandra Hogan, Paul’s wife. I spoke to Sandra to find out more about the retail business.

Why did you open your shop? Why pick retailing?

Since Fintan’s and Paul’s parents started the turkey farm they always had local families calling in for their fresh turkey at Christmas and they would set up an area for this what you would now call a ‘pop up shop’. The footfall gradually increased in recent years as it became a few regulars every week popping in to get their fresh turkey.

We didn’t think much of it at the time as we concentrated on the day to day running of the farm itself but when our offices needed refurbishment we were looking at the reception area and we thought why not make this area into a farm shop! We decided to build something sustainable that would work all year round not just on a seasonal basis.

We didn’t have any great masterplan of going into retail, it sort of just happened for us. Although we have worked for many years with retailers on the supplier side it is very different to run a retail shop. We are glad we did and, with the farm and production on site, the shop complements it all and makes it work.

How did you choose the name for your shop?

Hogan’s Farm Shop – we kept it pretty simple, it is what it is! Our tag line The Turkey Store & More, is something we are genuinely passionate about. We are firstly a turkey farm and have been for over 55 years so we know a thing or two about it. Consumers are realising not only the health benefits of fresh turkey but also its versatility in cooking and we are able to provide them with lots of variations and products to showcase turkey’s versatility in every day diet. However, we are not just about turkeys but we are about good quality food that brings real value for families. We stock a whole host of products from local producers and butchers as well as frozen goods which are popular for parties etc.

What’s the best thing about being a retailer?

The best thing for us is getting to meet and speaking with the consumer directly. As producer and supplier for a number of years we very rarely got to speak with the end consumer. Nothing beats chatting to the woman or man that is eating your products and hearing what’s what! And you get to have bit of chat and laugh too which is great.

What’s the worst thing about being a retailer?

Not knowing what each week is going to bring and making sure you can respond with the right stock etc. We are a little outside the town so we have to entice people to the shop, now that it is here, so for us that is sometimes the most difficult part. Some weeks you are flying and some weeks can be a little quieter and sometimes there are no obvious reasons for either! But I suppose that helps keep us on our toes too which is no harm!

What vision do you have for your business for the future?

We really want to grow and develop the shop to become sustainable all year round so that the tradition to pop into Hogan’s Farm lives on with the next generation, make it a destination if you will. The plans are there and we just need to keep going to get the finances to match! But it’s all positive and once we keep enjoying it we will continue to grow and develop.

Is small the future of retailing?

The common theme in both of these retailers is how close they are to their customers. They really value the customer relationship and can respond quickly to changing demand. Whether a long established retailer or new to the retail world, both Nimble Fingers and Hogan’s Farm Shop want their businesses to grow, thrive and be sustainable in the longer term. To do that they will be both nimble and adaptable to the changing demands of their customers.

Maybe that’s where the bigger retailers could learn from the independents.

Are you an independent retailer who would like to be interviewed for my blog? Or would you like to suggest someone else’s business for a future blog post? If so, I’d love to hear from you! You can get in touch on

Happy retailing!

© Retail Renewal 16/08/18

Retail Renewal offers practical solutions for the ever-evolving challenges of running a retail business today. Find out more on If you’d like to get in touch with Retail Renewal about your shop or retail project please give Linda a call on 086 8146949. Let us help you to support and grow your business.

Please follow and like us: