Best shops in Ireland 2016: the hunt is on

We want your help to find the nation’s favourite places to shop

Shoppers, once again we want your help to discover the most interesting shops, salons and cafes across the country.

Now in its fifth year, the Irish Times Best Shops in Ireland awards, backed by AIB, seek to reward independent shop owners who are getting it right according to you, the customer.

As recovery takes hold in cities and large towns, new shops are opening all the time. However, the same is not true for rural Ireland where retailers are struggling and small communities are seeing their local shops dwindle.

Lack of investment funds, online competition and giants offering discount prices have all hit the shopping landscape. And yet, small shops continue to survive and even thrive.

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What’s the secret to their success? We’d like you to help us uncover that shopping excellence.

Tell us about the shops you love and why you love them. Is it the stock or the style; is it the service, is it a certain expertise that a big chain just can’t deliver, or is it simply the friendly greeting that you get when you cross the threshold?

We are looking for winners in several different categories (see overleaf ) so there is plenty of opportunity for shops to shine.

Last year the competition attracted more than 31,000 nominations for close on 2,800 shops in 32 counties. Over the following weeks, readers' nominations and comments will features in the Magazine and online at irishtimes.com/bestshops

Let the shopping begin! Orna Mulcahy