‘I love haggling, particularly in local markets’
Me & My Money: John Loughran, proprietor, Sandymount Hotel
John Loughran (left) of the Sanymount Hotel.
Are you a saver or a spender?
In the good days, I used to be a saver. Fortunately, before 2008, I had accumulated savings, which carried my business through some difficult years, although I was just about at the bottom of the barrel when the economy turned. For the past seven years, there hasn’t been much opportunity to save. I think I still have my communion money in the Post Office.
Do you shop around for better value?
Sandymount Hotel has recently spent almost €6 million on refurbishment, catching up on work that needed to be done and preparing for upgrade to four-star. Shopping around for value is vital to make the most of work carried out.
What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
In 1999, I bought my brother’s 50 per cent share of the hotel. I can’t divulge the cost, but it was half the then capital value of a substantial property. Overnight, the business had a new and large debt, which immediately changed the dynamic. I still have a little bit to go before it is fully paid off.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
Audrey, my wife, worked for my parents as a receptionist in the hotel. I am in the unusual position of my wife having been interviewed by my parents before I met her. We are happily married for 37 years. Her wedding ring is the best value purchase I have ever made.
How do you prefer to shop – online or local?
I mainly shop local. I live in Blackrock and we are spoiled for choice, with a wide variety of shops in the area. I shop online for unusual items.
Do you haggle over prices?
I love haggling, particularly in local markets. However, my wife gets embarrassed and walks away. Last year at a street market in Hue, Vietnam, I bought a beautiful painting for $100, which now hangs in my office.
Has the recession changed your spending habits?
Until 2007, we used to go on an annual family skiing holiday. In 2010, we sold our holiday home in Brittas Bay. My last car purchase was a Porsche in 2003, which I bought from the proceeds of a property sale. Now, I mainly drive a Piaggio Scooter, which I love. My spending habits have certainly changed: the recession has made me differentiate between what I want and what I need, which is no bad thing.
Do you invest in shares?
]Not really. I did have shares in Anglo Irish Bank. I have a couple of Ryanair shares for years. Thank you, Michael O’ Leary.
Cash or card?
Nowadays, like everyone, I have shifted from cash to card, direct debit and online payments. I am conscious how expensive credit card debt is, however, and I always clear the balance in full at the end of each month.
What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
Last week, I was minding my two granddaughters. We sneaked up to Smyths toy shop where I spoiled them rotten. They were full of excitement running up and down the aisles trying to decide what toy to buy. Seeing their eyes light up, of course it was good value for money.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
]When I was a student in Trinity College, I set up a small restaurant that I ran independently in what was then my parents’ hotel. I was studying during the day and working at night seven days a week. It was hard work, but by the time I was 24, I had saved the deposit for my first house.
Have you ever lost money?
I never lost money until 2008. I was then losing every year for five years through 2012. Thankfully, in mid-2013 the economy turned and I am happy to say we are back in profit.
Are you a gambler and if so have you ever had a big win?
In business, every decision is a gamble. After 62 years, we have survived as the oldest family-run hotel in Dublin. That’s a big win.
Is money important to you?
In the 1920s, my grandparents were given £5 a season for two of my fathers’ brothers who were farm servant boys. They contracted TB and died, partly due to poor conditions, so I am aware of the consequences of poverty. In 2007, I worked at Marian Finucane’s Friends in Ireland charity in Lusikisiki, South Africa, and, in 2016, my wife and I visited some poorer parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. It is amazing how happy these people are with very little. Money is not nearly as important as the people in my life.
How much money do you have on you now?
€20 – that will cover petrol for the scooter and the emergency call for milk and bread!