With level 5 restrictions now in place, it is more important than ever to support Irish businesses and encourage others to do the same. There are some fantastic Irish businesses that are part of the One4all family. Over the next few weeks, we will be shining a spotlight on them and their great products, touching on topics like the importance of shopping Irish and tips on how local businesses can thrive during a pandemic. Here, we chatted to Paul O’Neill, I.T. & Ecommerce Manager at Great Outdoors.
Tell us about your business
We first opened our store in 1976, at the time, adventure sports and adventure holidays were reasonably new things. At first, we sold general sporting products like tennis rackets, hurleys and football boots with some sailing, diving and skiing items but that soon changed when fabrics like GoreTex and Fleece came to market, that coupled with an explosion in interest and participation in the general outdoors and recreational sports made for interesting times in our little shop.
At first, the scene in Ireland was a small community of adventurous spirits who dropped by the shop on Chatham street, exchanging stories or their latest escapades but before too long, it grew into a buzzing hub of activity as more people sought to establish businesses as guides and instructors for all of those who came behind. This is still going on today with many of our staff having qualified from adventure sports courses or been heavily involved with clubs and scouts as they grew up and as such, we have a wealth of adventure sports knowledge and expertise inside our store on any day. We may have moved to George’s Street in 2019, but we still retain that willingness to chat about adventures and see where our customers are setting off to next.
Have your operating hours been affected with level 5 restrictions?
Yes, with the lockdowns we have had to shut the front door, we’re not considered a supplier of essential goods. We are working behind the scenes though, still supplying the best adventure sports brands with the best advice and insider information.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
We have experienced a loss in sales as a result of the front door being closed and we’ve had to furlough some staff during these times to keep the business going, we all know just how serious the pandemic is and we want to make sure we keep our staff safe and the company secure as we go through it. We have been kept busier by the interest in local activities and staycationing. Good quality footwear and waterproof clothing sales have kept ticking over as people exercise in their local areas plus, sea swimming has taken off this year with the swimming pools all closed for the time being. During the summer, camping equipment really saw a surge when people had to make the most of holidaying at home but there’s plenty of stories of people finding new and amazing locations within the 32 counties, that have been a joy to hear. We must compile a list!
Why should people shop at your store?
Well, to keep us open in the long run but also, we are a 100% Irish owned company, we always have been and there’s a definitive flavour of the emerald isle in-store. We have all of the local knowledge including secret surf spots, fresh trail water, best off-trail campsites, the trails less travelled plus a knowledge and relationship with all of the adventure sports centres and governing bodies. We sell the best brands and stand over the gear that we sell and are 100% committed to making sure that our customers have the best experience on their many adventures.
Why is it so important to support Irish retail?
We have over 40 staff and we pay all of our taxes, rents, rates and bills to the relevant local bodies and we buy local ourselves keeping the money circulating in the Irish economy. It is also the mix of requirements for our unique climate and unique experience that we need to keep stores like ours going and not leave a vacuum for large international chains to fill, especially when they are not geared up to supply the gear that we need.
What advice would you give to other local businesses at the moment?
Get your name out there, get out into the mix. If you have a customer database, get your message out to them. If you are on social, tell your story. If you are sitting in the shop, answer the phones. Stay at it, get your website going, talk to your customers. Offer value, offer service, offer warmth.
You can support Great Outdoors by shopping online at greatoutdoors.ie