Viewed through a certain prism, the threat the online retail revolution poses for Irish businesses is terrifying and deadly. With internet giants doing business in a borderless world able to offer massively discounted products to consumers with the click of a mouse, it is tempting to suggest there is no way any indigenous companies with low-key operations can possibly compete either on price or choice.
But last week we posed a question on Twitter and the response took us by surprise. We asked, simply, for “examples of Irish retailers who do online really well”. Within hours we had hundreds of responses from people who were practically falling over themselves to praise the online offerings of dozens of Irish companies big and small.
There were shout-outs for garden centres and garments shops and garages and grocers and online jewellers and butchers. The level of positivity was remarkable – so remarkable, in fact, that we feel compelled to share the love with a list – in no particular order – of just some of the Irish-owned companies that our readers think are doing a stellar job in the brave new world of online trading.
1 dunnesstores.com Never having bought so much as a sock from the Dunnes Stores website, Pricewatch was woefully ignorant of how far the company has travelled in the online retail space in recent years. Luckily our readers are not so ignorant, and Dunnes got mention over and over again for its value, service and speed of delivery.
What they say: Better value beats them all (well, they probably don't say that anymore but they used to.)
What you say: I'm not a regular online shopper however was recently majorly impressed with @dunnesstores response to a clothing order made at 9.30pm Sunday. Arrived at my door 11am Monday! That's service. Oh and no extra charge! #CustomerService
2 glitznpieces.com A gorgeous-looking – if very pink – place selling all sorts of quirky and beautiful-looking jewellery, bags and Alphabet cups. If you are in the market for a thoughtful present – for someone else or yourself – and can't make it to an actual shop then this place will see you right.
What they say: Online boutique for women's fashion accessories! We ship worldwide!
You say: Fab Irish retailer – great online range, v customer-centric and reliable. No rip-off pricing either. @melissahillbks
3 hairybaby.com You had us at Hairy Baby, Hairy Baby, and we have been in love with you ever since. It not only sells T-shirts (and mugs and hoodies and the like) but also makes us laugh every single time we visit it. What is best about it is that virtually no one outside of Ireland will ever get the jokes to be found on the Hairy Baby clothes. We're talking about "Where's Granddad?", "Who's Taking the Horse to France?", "A1 Sharon", "I Wish I Was on the N17" and "Abair Halo le Mo Chara Beag". Legends.
What they say: Keeping it Irish and putting it on T-shirts, that's us!
What you say: Very quick service, great original product and even threw in a mini pack of Haribo with my last order. @ewoogog
4 micksgarage.com We first came across Micks Garage almost 15 years ago and we were stuck by how novel and how niche the idea of selling car parts on the internet was. As we are utterly useless when it comes to car repairs, we have never had cause to buy anything from the site, but we have spoken to many people who have and who have raved about the value and the service – not to mention the ease of doing business with Mick and his people. That is probably why the business has kept growing over the last decade.
What they say: Shop online for the biggest range of car parts and accessories. Great prices and fast delivery!
What you say: I know it's not mainstream. But excellent nonetheless. @DimplesSnr
5 mcelhinneys.com There is a perception that the companies that do well in the online space are start-ups with headquarters in major urban centres, which is just one reason why we love the fact that one of the most frequently commended online businesses we have been hearing about in recent days has been this old-school department store in Ballybofey, Co Donegal which continues to give Ireland and the world a masterclass in how to grow a business and compete against the young upstarts without a care for geographical disadvantages.
What they say: Award-winning department store bringing you a unique mix of international designer brands.
What you say: I was blown away by the level of customer service I received from when I ordered online recently. @KilcoyneAlisha
6 kennys.ie This Galway bookshop and art gallery was one of Ireland's online pioneers and had started developing a significant presence on the web as early as the mid-1990s – when Jeff Bezos was aimlessly wandering the streets of Seattle wondering what he could best do to turn a buck. It is very competitively priced for mainstream books – not least because delivery is free – but also has a truly staggering array of Irish-interest books and first editions, signed and otherwise. The site is slick and easy to use and with each click you can take comfort in the fact that you're cocking a snook at the major international players who simply want to hoover money out of the State by pushing a homogenised mish-mash which you probably think are cheaper than they actually are.
What they say: Independent bookshop est 1940 located in Galway, Ireland. Website with millions of discounted books (new and used) & free delivery worldwide
What you say: It is a fantastic bookstore @markowake
7 wyldsson.com In a world which appears increasingly obsessed with eating foods for health rather than pleasure, this Irish start-up stands out, not least because of the quality of the products they sell. Expect to find nuts and protein balls and something they describe as "guilt-free hot chocolate" although we have to confess we have never felt any guilt when drinking hot chocolate.
What they say: Plant-based. Gluten-free. Vegan. Exclusively online.
What you say: Wyldsson without a doubt. Clear customer-friendly website, seamless service, great follow-up @HelenBMc
8 lenehans.ie We have spent a fair few bob in Lenehans on Dublin's Capel St over the last two decades but had no idea this old-school hardware shop – which has been plying its trade in Dublin since the middle of the 19th century – even had a web presence until readers started shouting about them last week. The site looks great and the promise
What they say: Ireland's best online hardware, DIY and Greenhouse Shop.
What you say: Prompt delivery. Professional and polite email communications if any issue. @ElizabethMSmyth
9 supervalu.ie Ireland is not well served by online food deliveries and, when it really comes down to it, only Tesco and Supervalu offer such a service in a significant way across the State. Tesco is excluded from our list for obvious reasons, so that leaves Supervalu. It is not, however, just because it is in a class of one that it is in a class of its own; a lot of our readers pointed us in its direction for the range of produce and the efficiency of delivery.
What they say: Ireland's leading food retailer with 223 stores nationwide.
What you say: Use it every week and it works a treat. @lismalin
10 littleones.ie You'd want a heart of stone not to go "awwww" as you browse through this online enterprise dedicated to filling children's lives – and bedrooms – with wonder. It is very cute and the volume of stock they have is impressive. You might be able to get a children's tepee cheaper in Ikea but sometimes it is better so spend a little bit more to support businesses closer to home.
What they say: Providing customers with high quality goods at affordable prices. We have sourced a fantastic selection of toys and gifts that will be treasured for years.
What you say: They are really great. Based in Ennis but have an Ireland-wide reputation! @audreydarcy
11 cloud10beauty.com We're not going to lie – as we went through this website we had virtually no idea what we were looking at. The brands were entirely unfamiliar and the products mysterious, but we were struck by how many people contacted us to shout about how great this website is both for quality, range, price and aftersales service.
What they say: Discover the ultimate beauty edit. From hero products and niche brands to firm celebrity favourites, [we have] them all.
What you say: Oh yes! @cloud10beauty for the holy trinity – great product, exceptional customer service, super-speedy delivery. #beautyjunkie @melaniemorris
12 iclothing.com Another Irish-based online retailer we knew absolutely nothing about. Our readers were not so ill-informed, and quite a few people cited this site for its good value and variety. We only had the most casual of looks at the women's clothing and shoes and bags and other accessories, but spent a whole lot longer trawling the babies and kids section where we found all manner of cute things at good prices.
What they say: The latest trends and styles with our online fashion shop,
What you say: I ordered a few items for a wedding last Tuesday at 5pm and had them by 10am the next morning! @claire_heg
13 ejmenswear.com It is probably fair to say that Irish-based retailers of men's clothes were not overly represented in the correspondence we received, so we were delighted to see a lot of love for EJ Menswear in Sligo. We liked their use of the word draper in their Twitter biog, and their Happy Socks boxset at less than €30 seemed on a par with much bigger retailers found elsewhere in cyberspace. The clothes options seemed grand, with a lot of brand names you will recognise.
What they say: Drapers award winner, fashion destination for men of all ages. We have the brands you love, and we love brands! Free next day delivery!
What you say: [They]do online very well @dk12318
14 ilovecarousel.com This is a very cute-looking website that specialises in vintage-looking clothes. The New York Times, no less, chose it as a must-visit shop in Dublin, and Uma Thurman stopped in while she was here – or so the Irish Times archive tells us, and who are we to argue with that?
What they say: A vintage-inspired clothing store, based in the heart of Dublin city, Cork city and online. We produce and stock our Irish-designed range "Circus".
What you say: Super, gorgeous selection, quick delivery and free returns @sara_mcgeough
15 meagherspharmacy.ie We didn't realise how many people used online pharmacies until last week, but there was a lot of love for such operations out there, with McCabes and Irish Pharmacy getting multiple mentions as well. Meaghers certainly seemed very well stocked and the prices were keen.
What they say: Our focus is your health. We bring the best selection of pharmacy, beauty and health-related products and services to ensure feel your best!
What you say: They do online really well, they also do in-store really well and, in my experience the true litmus test, any order problems are resolved really well too. @SineadOHara
16 jameswhelanbutchers.com If you had said 20 years ago that a day would come when Irish people would buy fresh meat on the internet you would have been laughed out of it. But that day has come – in fact, it came years ago, and one of Ireland's best butchers continues to carve out a handy little niche for itself. The range of products on offer is breathtaking, the delivery exemplary and the whole experience a joy – well, as much of a joy as any visit to a butchers, real or virtual, can be.
What they say: Nose-to-tail butchery from our own farm.
What you say: Excellent online and offer great service @screameremer
Other honourable mentions go to designist.ie with all its cool gifts, homebird.ie for its brilliantly original and eclectic range of prints and presents, farfetchedaccessories.ie for its, wait for it now, accessories. Voya.ie seaweed products in Galway were commended for a "great website, great products and speedy delivery". Eason.ie was one of the more well-known Irish retailers which has loyal fans at home. Mccabespharmacy.com was hailed for its fast delivery, fair value and good choice of products. We were told that gilesnorman.com photography is very good for online ordering and swift delivery. We were told that gillyandrob.com have "great merch" that is "well protected and packaged for delivery. Even the cards come in a 'do not bend' envelope. Right craic on social media too." And quite a few people gave shout-outs to the sports shops elverys.ie and lifestylesports.com.