Best Shops: Over 2,000 entries in - it's time to stand out from the crowd

The campaigns have begun: how are you promoting your favourite shop?

Vote 4 Us: The Old Mill Stores in Leap, west Cork

Vote 4 Us: The Old Mill Stores in Leap, west Cork

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 20:30

Four days into this year’s Best Shops 2014 competition and the nominations received have passed the 2,000 mark and numbers are rising by the minute.

This is the third year of the Irish Times competition, which launched in recession-blighted 2012. In 2014 there is a new sense of energy about independent retail. New shops, cafes and salons all open for business have transformed main streets that were once pockmarked by empty store fronts.

We want to celebrate the shops that you feel make a difference to our streets. Readers have really got behind the competition, last year nominating over 600 establishments.

This year we’re looking for your nominations in the follow categories:

Best café/teashop
Best artistan food/greengrocer
Best boutique
Best gift/design/interiors shop
Best salon
Best bookshop
Best destination shop
Best specialist store, be it a flower shop, a pharmacy, a sports shop, a vintage shop, a haberdashery and so on
Best shop window
Best service

This year we’ve invited experts in their fields to join our judging panel. Simon Pratt is MD of Avoca’s 11 shops and 12 cafes. Edmund Shanahan is a retail, fashion and homewares consultant and Chairperson of the Irish Council of Fashion Designers. Fashion designers, stylists and Frockadvisor columnists Sonya Lennon and Brendan Courtney have 35 years shopping experience between them. Alanna Gallagher is a writer with The Irish Times  who loves to champion independent retailers.

Sor far this year, readers are nominating lots of tasty artisan food and greengrocers and cracking cafes and teashops. In the café / teashop category two counties are competing for pole position. Currently leading the way is Primrose Cottage Cakes, a retro haven situated in an upstairs room on Lower Esmonde Street, just off Gorey’s main drag, Co Wexford who came highly commended in last year’s competition.Café Le Coco on Patrick Street in Kilkenny city is a close second.

But the specialist shop is also being celebrated. Service is a key part of what they like. Orla Walshe loves the fact that the staff at Conn’s Cameras, Clarendon Street, Dublin 2 “give brilliant advice to everyone who comes into the shop.” She also admits to picking up technique tips by osmosis as she waits in line to be served – the shop is always thronged with enthusiasts.

In West Cork Tom Keane and Claire Graham who run the Old Mill Stores in Leap have taken personalisation to the next level by pushing out their nominations in-store using letters made from old boats to spell out “Vote For Us” in the Irish Times Best Shops 14 competition. In this photo they’ve chalked up their request onto blackboard oil cloth, which sells in the Leap store and their newly opened sister shop in Clonakilty for E32 per metre. Use it on tabletops, on walls and even as picnic mats in the garden – when the sun shines.

We want to see more of these colourful ideas and will publish some of the creative ways you get customers to nominate you.

We want you to get voting. Go to and tell us why you want to nominate your favourite shop.

Don't forget our hastag: bestshops14

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