Researching the retail future
Innovation Profile DIT: The Arthur Ryan Research Centre aims to establish links between academia and the retail sector
It is not generally appreciated but Ireland is very much to the fore when it comes to modern retailing practice. Indeed, there are now 247 Primark stores across Europe which should probably have “Born in Ireland” signs hanging over their doors.
While owned by Associated British Foods, Primark is very much an Irish chain which was set up by Dubliner Arthur Ryan, who opened the first store under the Penneys brand in Dublin’s Mary Street in 1969. He took the chain to Britain in the 1970s but changed its name to Primark to avoid any chance of litigation by US retailer JC Penney which itself was considering expansion into Europe at the time.
From those small beginnings, Ryan transformed Penneys into one of Europe’s top clothing retailers and probably its leading “fast fashion” chain with stores in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Ryan’s name and legacy are now set to live on in a new research centre located at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street. The Arthur Ryan Retail Centre has been named in recognition of his contribution to retail innovation and is funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation which was established by the Weston family, whose business interests include a majority stake in Associated British Foods.
The aim of the centre is to serve as an interface between academia and the retail sector. “Our ongoing research work will contribute towards the development of sustainable retail policy, effective retail education and supportive retail services for the retail and services community in Ireland and internationally,” explains John Jameson, head of the School of Retail and Services Management at DIT.
Launching the new centre in September, Arthur Ryan said that while the retail sector acts as a barometer for how the economy is performing, for its future success it must understand and analyse developments in areas such as technology, procurement and sourcing, logistics and marketing.
“The pace of change in the retail sector is enormous and business is increasingly international,” Ryan noted. “To stay competitive, there is a constant need to innovate and to anticipate trends. The DIT College of Business has always provided excellent support and expertise to the retail sector in Ireland and I believe this new centre will become a hub for educational opportunities, research, and industry outreach programmes.”
The centre builds on the work which has been ongoing in the School of Retail and Services Management for the past 30 years. This is Ireland’s largest and longest established retail management school with full-time courses at postgraduate, honours degree and higher certificate level as well as a range of part-time undergraduate courses and executive education.
“We offer a range of degree programmes in the retail services area as well as higher certificate programmes in different aspects of retailing such as security, retail enterprise, retail management and so on,” says Jameson.
The school also works closely with external organisations and partners. “We have developed a number of part-time programmes in conjunction with Dublin Chamber of Commerce and we have designed a programme for Retail Excellence Ireland. These courses are delivered on a two-day-per-month basis with the participants going back to their workplaces and applying what they have learned. We also work with IBEC on the Skillnet Programme as well as on the Export Orientation Programme,” Jameson adds.