On today’s show we’re joined by Evelyn Moynihan from The Kilkenny Group, one of Ireland’s leading retail brands, and home to the largest collection of Irish designers. Earlier this year, they joined forces with Visa, and the business groups Retail Excellence, the Small Firms Association and Chambers Ireland, to setup Champion Green, a movement aimed at encouraging irish consumers to support local business in these challenging times.
Click on the player below to play the podcast audio (download: 16:23; 9MB; MP3), or scroll down to watch the video.
When people think of shopping online, they tend to think of imports, and it’s true that 70% of online spending in Ireland goes to merchants abroad. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As Covid restrictions are driving Irish consumers to shop online for Christmas, Champion Green has launched a campaign to encourage people to Think Local, and Shop Local Online. It’s essential, says Evelyn, for the future of Irish businesses.
“Yes you can definitely shop Irish and shop online. That’s a critical message for the month of November, for all small and medium-sized businesses that are out there. Green Friday is all about changing people’s behaviour on the run-up to the big event and across the month of November
“I’d also say that a lot of Irish businesses have invested hugely in developing their ecommerce business over the last while … and even ourselves in Kilkenny Design. We were investing in ecommerce anyway, but I think Covid, and the impact it’s had on retail and bricks and mortar, has really put a significant lens on the need to really grow ecommerce for the future of all businesses. This is a long-term change as well. It’s not just something for getting us through Covid and beyond”
She points to a recent statistic that, if every adult spent an additional €50 on an ecommerce site that is sourced locally, or Irish, it would mean an additional €180 million boost to the economy.
Consumers are increasingly buying online, on account of both store closures and the sheer convenience. Visa data reveals that 40% of Irish Visa cardholders, who did not shop online prior to March, are now making ecommerce transactions*.
“I do think there’s huge emphasis on businesses like ourselves and other irish businesses to invest in their site if they have one already, look to improve the customer experience, strengthen the user journeys, photography, how you position your products, etc. But also for lots of companies who never had ecommerce, it’s really critical that they start to invest now. I’ve heard it described that it’s been like a decade of change in six months when it comes to ecommerce.”
The Covid crisis has also heightened a sense of community in the country. Google recently revealed there’s been a 540% increase in searches for the keywords “shop local Ireland”.
“There is a swell of support out there. I think what’s critical now is we need to convert what people are saying into what people are doing. Over 65% of jobs come from the SME sector.
“I do think shopping with local and Irish sites has added benefits as well, when it comes to returns or when it comes to ongoing services, I think that’s an important end-to-end consideration as well when consumers are thinking about how to turn Black Friday Green.
And there are other ways for people to support local businesses.
“You can give your support by liking their pages … sharing recommendations. I think people buy from people and that’s really positive on two fronts. It obviously helps drive and promote a product but the lift that it gives small businesses when they see the passion and pride that their customers are sharing and talking about their product, you know, you can’t put a value on this, and a lot of what we’re about is positivity as well, and positivity breeds positivity.”
Champion Green is developing its site as a hub for buying Irish.
“For people looking to Shop Irish and Shop Local, there are some fabulous directories circulating at the moment, and Champion Green has brought out a master of directories. We’ve literally captured all the directories that have been put together by different business sources and the directories that have been put together locally, by county as well. I think they are a great place to start if you’re thinking about how to shop more local and Irish on the run up to Christmas, and in particular for the month of November. Have a look, seek out what you’re looking to purchase and I guarantee you’ll get great quality products. There’s fabulous creativity out there; we know it, working with Kilkenny Design. We work with over 250 brilliant irish designers and makers. The talent is there. The value is there, and what I’d encourage peoople to do is go out and seek it.”
They are also offering support and help to businesses.
“For businesses, we’re asking them, very simply, to log on to championgreen.ie, to pledge their support and to input the detail of their businesses, what products they sell, what county they’re from and, most importantly, what’s their website. And from there, we are spotlighting businesses through our marketing spend, throughout all our channels, both national media and local media and our social channels … Also, through championgreen.ie, when you sign up, you get access to toolkit and in the toolkit are some lovely assets for social media … And we’re also hosting regular webinars for businesses. In the last two weeks we did an excellent webinar on supporting people to maximise their ecommerce and social media and their digital assets right now on the run up to Christmas.”
They’re doing a regular feature on Newstalk FM, highlighting Irish retailers who have Green Friday offers. The language is important, Evelyn says – saying “Green Friday” instead of “Black Friday” is a great way to remind people that they are supporting Irish business and jobs.
“I do feel ecommerce’s growth is here to stay and it’ll continue. I think it’s going to be about the hybrid approach of thinking about how all your channels can be maximised. It’s actually up to the customer what way they want to shop, and then you are ready for it”
Looking to get your business online? Blacknight web hosting is Guaranteed Irish, and we’re a proud supporter of Champion Green.
* VisaNet Data June 2020 (09 Mar 20 – 30 Jun 2020 vs 01 Jan 19 – 08 Mar 20)