It’s little wonder that Carroll's Irish Gifts are centering their Christmas campaign this year all around love — or rather, grá.
After all, despite the difficulties that the pandemic posed for all businesses — including their own — Carroll's have undoubtedly been feeling the love from their customers over the past few years, perhaps even more strongly than they were in those rose-tinted days before Covid.
For any business to have survived those challenging pandemic years is remarkable, but to have emerged from the tumultuous period stronger than ever is near impossible. It’s especially impressive that Carroll's, a brand traditionally known for its appeal to tourists, excelled during the Covid years that saw not a single international visitor entering the country, or their stores.
“We had done some market analysis which found that our customer base pre-pandemic was actually 95% tourist and just 5% domestic,” reveals Peter Hyland, Group CEO of Carroll's. “When that tourist clientele disappeared and people were unable to travel, the only customers left were obviously our domestic audience and so our need to connect with them was stronger than ever. We realised it was the perfect opportunity to really address our brand image, and to clarify aspects of it that we’d been wanting to tackle for a while. The pandemic, especially the periods of store closures, allowed us to put our full energy behind that strategy.
“Our main aim was to address the perceptions that we knew people were harbouring about Carroll's. We all know a Carroll's store, and we all have some idea of who they are or what they sell, but very often people get the wrong idea. I think that, for a long time, people assumed we just sold gifts with leprechauns or harps all over them! We offer so much more than that, and we always have done, but people didn’t know about it until recently.
“Pre-pandemic, 75% of Carroll's stock was actually purchased through an Irish business. We just never spoke about it enough, whereas now we’re shouting it from the rooftops! I mean, the brands people love in our stores these days were always there pre-pandemic too; the likes of Newbridge Silverware or Foxford, but we didn't draw enough people’s attention to it, we didn't showcase those ranges at the front of our stores. That’s all changed now, what you’ll see today is that our stores are more aligned with the seasons, so now that we’re in Q4, the Christmas season, all our stores – and our website – have festive gifting products displayed front and center. The key thing is, we’ll switch that all around come Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, all the big holidays – not just Paddy’s Day! We are an Irish gift store, and we want to be a player in all those major events of the year, to continue redefining what an ‘Irish gift’ is and how it can fit into all those occasions.”
Those hopes are already becoming a reality for Carroll's, as Peter says this is the busiest Q4 the company’s ever had, with sales figures already back up to their 2019 levels and even outdoing pre-pandemic targets.
As this success is primarily owed to the domestic Irish audience, and their support in recent years, Carroll's now want to give back. And what better way to do it, than with their Gifts with Grá campaign?
“This Christmas we really wanted to champion Ireland, and the breadth of talented producers we have in this country,” Peter explains. “We also wanted to show people how easy it is to ‘shop Irish’ and to do so on any budget.
“We conducted a survey recently which showed us that while most people firmly believed that buying Irish was important, more than half of those same people perceived buying Irish as being too expensive. That’s a false narrative that we really wanted to correct.
“Online and in stores, we have beautiful Irish-made candles for just €10. That’s only one example of how Carroll's can help you find a gift where you’ll get real value and you're still buying Irish. So we’re highlighting ‘Gifts with Grá’ to break down the barriers people have around buying Irish. It really is something that any and all of our customers can choose to support, regardless of how much they can spend this Christmas.”
While you don’t need to spend an extortionate amount to support Irish businesses this Christmas, you also don’t need to break the bank to find a gift that has personal significance. A cheaper gift, Peter points out, doesn’t have to be a less meaningful one.
“The range of what we're putting forward at Carroll's will appeal to all audiences, but we can go even further to help you tailor it for justaudience — there’s always a personal touch you can add for that special someone.
“People don’t want something straight off the shelf, they want a gift that shows how well you know them. Engraving is a huge part of what we do at Carroll's, and it makes our products so unique. You can get beautiful glassware with your mother’s favourite saying on it, for example. You can buy your partner a gift that’s been engraved with the year of your first Christmas together as a couple. It just creates a thoughtful present that will make someone smile and doesn't cost a large amount of money.”
One of the most thoughtful forms of gifting, however, is to show loved ones who can’t make it home this Christmas that you’re thinking of them. As Peter explains, Carroll's haven’t lost their quintessentially Irish touch that still amazes people in countries far and wide, or that warms the hearts of diaspora.
“We currently have sales being shipped to 90 countries worldwide, and some of the best-selling items on our website are those classic, piece-of-home type gifts. People love our Aran knitwear, or our Taste of Ireland hampers that contain everything from Tayto, to teas and Irish liqueur chocolates, to Irish candles or bath salts. Those gifts really mean a lot to people who are missing Ireland this Christmas.”
As well as spreading the love to customers not just at home but across the globe, Gifts with Grá is also an act of love towards the world-class designers, artists, craft makers and producers whose work lines the shelves of Carroll's stores nationwide.
“What’s most important to us at Carroll's is that we showcase exactly what it is that people love about Ireland. We want to ensure that we're pushing the right image out there — we are a modern, diverse and vibrant country and we get all that across, we never want to portray Ireland as something that it's not,” Peter pledges. “Carroll's do Irish, simply put, but we do it tastefully. We’re very clear about where the line needs to be drawn before anything we do becomes twee.
“That’s why we want to showcase some of the best designers Ireland has, by putting their products on our website and on our shop floors. These are products we really believe in, made by Irish artists who we feel really capture the authenticity of Ireland. We’ve put a lot of work into sourcing startup Irish companies with brilliant ranges and great price points — companies with great stories who are a bit quirky!
“We want to support those exciting, young Irish businesses and give them a platform. For someone who’s only two or three years into their business and is still trying to build a presence for their brand, if Carroll's can put them on our website that has access to thousands of customers across 90 different countries, and put them on shelves in our 19 stores, then we give these young entrepreneurs a real step up. We want to continue encouraging that kind of talent, because that’s the only way we’ll keep diversifying what an Irish gift can be. We don't want to be like everybody else doing Irish — we want to champion what’s unique about Irish products.”
To see just how unique Carroll’s gift range is for yourself, and to support Irish this Christmas, head to www.carrollsirishgifts.com.