Crafting a livelihood — Buying Irish maintains a tradition of design

Greg O'Gorman, Kilkenny Group marketing director, pictured with Peter McDermott, AXA Business Development Manager and campaign sponsor

Greg O'Gorman, Kilkenny Group marketing director, pictured with Peter McDermott, AXA Business Development Manager and campaign sponsor

For over 51 years, the Kilkenny Group has been synonymous with supporting Irish craft and design. As we lead in to our third annual Kilkenny Irish Craft & Design Week (running until Sunday next, this year sponsored by AXA ) I have been reflecting on the reasons we decided to start this campaign back in 2012 and on how it has grown year on year.

This initiative aims to celebrate the very best of Irish craft and design and really showcase the incredible home-grown talent that we have on our shores. We want people to understand the quality of craftsmanship that goes into every product and create a loyalty which gets our customers excited about buying Irish.

The thing about ‘buying Irish’ and with the Kilkenny Group is that it is ‘personal’; it’s personal because we genuinely believe in the products we sell; it’s personal because each one of our staff knows everything there is to be known about all of our brands (of which there are hundreds! ); most importantly, it’s personal because each and every Irish product you buy has a direct effect on a craftsperson’s business and subsequently on the environment around them. In 2012, the Crafts Council of Ireland recorded that there were 5,321 employed in the craft sector and of those, 70.1 per cent of makers reporting sales of less than €25,000, making it a very employment-sensitive sector. What this means is simple – the more Irish products we buy, the greater the demand for production from the suppliers leading to an increase in employment. The majority of Irish craftspeople operate from their local area and employ locals from the surrounding area meaning that money is pumped directly back in to the local community.

Since opening our doors in Galway back in 2002, local shoppers have shown fantastic loyalty and support for Irish design and local craftspeople; however there is still room for improvement and we want to see the loyalty of our customers continue to grow not only in Galway but nationwide.

We are incredibly proud to champion Irish design both at home and abroad – the next step for the Kilkenny Group is to tap into the vast Irish diaspora market in the US and catapult the Irish craft sector to worldwide success. Over the coming months, we are implementing a strategic digital campaign to target the US market and increase our virtual retail footprint through online sales. The US offers an incredible platform to give Irish craft the worldwide recognition it deserves!

The West of Ireland has such amazing talent to offer and has produced some of Ireland’s best-loved brands over the years, including Vera Gaffney, Galway Crystal and of course Foxford. The talent is there in abundance, we just need to make people aware of it and get them supporting these wonderful brands!

We often ask our Irish designers “if there was one message you would tell the public, what would it be?” The most common phrases we hear are ‘buy Irish’, ‘support your local craftspeople’ and ‘be proud to support Irish designers’ – and we should be proud to buy these amazing hand-made products and to support our home-grown talent!

So the next time you are making a purchase, just think a little about the people behind the brand you have in your hand and the effect one little purchase can have on their business – your purchase decision affects a livelihood, it is personal!

We hope you will show your support for Irish designers and join in the celebrations with us during the 2014 Kilkenny Irish Craft and Design Week by popping in to the Kilkenny Shop Galway (High St ) where you can meet some of your favourite designers during our intimate daily ‘Designer Spotlight’ events in-store, with highlights including fashion designer Niamh O’Neill (Saturday 11 ), Vera Gaffney (Saturday 11 ) and Rossa Pottery (Thursday 9 ) – full listings add times can be found online at kilkennyshop.com

And as a little ‘thank you’ from us for supporting Irish, each customer will receive a free €20 voucher with every purchase of more than €70 made between September 29 and October 12. Full schedule details for the week can be found on kilkennyshop.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for live updates throughout the week.

Greg O’Gorman is the Marketing Director at the Kilkenny Group and having, started the Kilkenny Irish Craft and Design Week initiative back in 2012, reiterates the importance of buying Irish and getting behind Brand Ireland. Kilkenny Irish Craft and Design Week runs nationwide until October 12, with a free €20 voucher for all customers with every purchase over €70 made between Sept 29 and Oct 12 as an added incentive for buying Irish.

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