On Conversation With Eddie Shanahan

Christmas is the busiest
time of the year for retailers and makers alike.
Retail consultant and Irish design advocate Eddie Shanahan speaks to House of Ireland about the importance of quality and innovation in design and his admiration for retailers who engage and surprise the customers.

“Today’s consumers understand the true meaning of value so being ‘Irish’ is simply not enough anymore.”

Luisa Via Roma, Florence

How important is it for Irish design to be recognised worldwide for its quality and innovation, as opposed to the very fact that it is Irish?

Today’s consumers understand the true meaning of value so being ‘Irish’ is simply not enough anymore. To be truly competitive, in a world where the important elements of value are innovation, design, quality, ethics and sustainability as well as heritage; the whole now needs to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Do you feel Irish designers in the homewares sector receive enough international recognition? What can a store like House of Ireland do to further promote designers and brands overseas?

Irish designers are deservedly receiving more and more international attention and recognition, especially since ID 2015 and its related international promotional program. Recently Ireland was awarded 'Best Curated Stand’ at New York. Now through the efforts of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland in co-ordinating and supporting a number of distinctive quality Irish brands to show at the fair.

Retail buyers go on ‘shop safaris’ to discover new brands when travelling, so Irish retailers often inadvertently play a role in highlighting quality innovative Irish collections to the international market. All Irish retailers selling online are effectively international traders offering a particularly strong opportunity to raise the awareness of quality Irish lifestyle brands across the globe.

In terms of the retail experience as its own entity, from the very first moment you enter a shop to the moment you leave, what are you looking for? What criteria do you judge a shop by?

Engagement – including welcome, layout, merchandise with a point of difference and the customer journey.

You are regularly exposed to design talent, whether established or new. How often do you experience exhilaration at discovering a designer with a fresh new perspective? And what does it take for this to happen?

Exhilaration is an overwhelming feeling rather than a precise measure. For me it is usually born of an innovative combination of design and craftsmanship. People like Joseph Walsh, Helen Cody, Deirdre Duffy of Wild Cocoon, Isobel Egan, Rudolf Heltzel and the graduates from DCCOI’s 2017 Goldsmith Program have at different times literally taken my breath away.

Wild Cocoon at House of Ireland

“Irish designers are deservedly receiving more and more international attention and recognition.”

Luisa Via Roma, Florence

Which international lifestyle stores do you admire, and why?

Luisa Via Roma, Florence for its constant ability to engage and surprise. This store understands the real substance of retail theatre. On one of my first visits it was decorated throughout with trays of fragrant ivory rosebuds exuding an aroma that still lingers in my memory for over a decade.

Le Bon Marche in Paris for its easy elegance, authoritative merchandise categories and enjoyable customer journey.

Eddie's Christmas Essentials

Books and reading have guided so much of my life.

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Candles and music are so important
to elevate the atmosphere of Christmas.

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The proper laying of the Christmas dinner table,
the giving of thoughtful gifts however small and the importance of family gathering.

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Paintings, prints, ceramics and photographs in my very eclectic personal collection. None were purchased because of their provenance, popularity or potential to accumulate value.
All were purchased out of love.

Le Bon Marche, Paris

Shop Wild Cocoon
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