Retail optimism: ‘I would hope people will be excited to get dressed up again’

Magee tweed’s chief is hoping our renewed interest in native brands is here to stay

Rosy Temple, chief executive of  Magee 1866, in Donegal. ‘I think, like all retailers, we are very excited to be able to get back to business,’ she says. Photograph: John Smith

Rosy Temple, chief executive of Magee 1866, in Donegal. ‘I think, like all retailers, we are very excited to be able to get back to business,’ she says. Photograph: John Smith

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Over five generations, the Magee family in Donegal and its business built on tweed have faced many challenges, but over the last 14 months the family has had to overcome three major blows.

Not only did Magee 1868, the name under which the business trades, have to contend with the Covid lockdowns and pivot almost all of its business online, it also saw a huge chunk of its customer base – tourists from the US and the UK – disappear almost overnight.

And, with people confined to home and gatherings cancelled, it watched as the demand for occasion wear, made-to-measure and smart office clothes that it traditionally sells fall off a cliff.

Despite all the difficulties, which she describes as “truly unprecedented”, the company’s chief executive, Rosy Temple, was upbeat as she and her staff were dusting shelves, folding clothes and putting the finishing touches to the reopening plans over the weekend.

“I think, like all retailers, we are very excited to be able to get back to business,” she said ahead of Monday’s easing of restrictions. “We also supply a lot of independent retailers and we are thrilled to see them opening again too.”

Silver linings

She said that amid all the gloom over recent months she had noticed two silver linings.

“We have seen a supremely supportive shop-local campaign and I have been delighted to see that renewed interest among Irish people in Irish brands and I really hope that trend continues.”

Casual is clearly here to stay but we have already had a lot of inquiries about our made-to-measure service

She also noted that the pandemic had accelerated the store’s move into the online space. “We have had a website for the last eight years and it has been growing steadily but this last year has been phenomenal. I think the last year will have changed the way many people shop.”

She stressed that the focus for its stores would be on all the necessary protocols to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 but expressed confidence that more people will return to bricks and mortar retail in the days ahead because of the changed vaccine landscape.

‘Confidence’

“Customer safety will remain paramount and all the social distancing guidelines and hand sanitisation and mask wearing will remain in place, but we are hoping we see a greater level of confidence because of the substantial cohort of customers who have been vaccinated,” she said.

She said that last summer the business in Donegal had been buoyed by the staycation market but the Dublin stores had struggled. She expressed the view that there would be “renewed optimism” in the capital this summer.

She predicted that there would “a resurgence in occasion wear” in the weeks ahead as the country opens up and said the company would also enhance its leisure-wear section.

“Casual is clearly here to stay but we have already had a lot of inquiries about our made-to-measure service and I would hope people will be excited to get dressed up again.”

‘Fantastic news’

Retail Excellence managing director Duncan Graham said Monday was a “landmark day for the retail industry in Ireland and fantastic news for 280,000 retail employees around the country”.

Shoppers could be confident that retailers were “continuing to uphold the highest standards of safety for everyone in their stores” and he urged people to be “patient when visiting shops once again”.

Mr Graham said retailers were prepared and fully stocked for the full reopening “and cannot wait to get trading properly once again”.