Friday 30 September 2016

Newsmaker: Amanda Pratt

Published 16/11/2015 | 02:30

Amanda Pratt
Amanda Pratt

While most eyes were on managing director Simon Pratt after last week's decision to sell Avoca to US catering giant Aramack, it's his sister Amanda who may already have stolen a march into the UK market.

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The €60m deal with Aramack will give the ultra middle class Avoca brand the financial power to expand internationally, with Britain the obvious first step.

But a year after parting from the family business following a fairly high profile disagreement with brother Simon, Amanda, the eldest of Avoca founders Donald and Hilary Pratt's children, has signed up with Scottish aristocrat the Duke of Buccleuch, Britain's biggest landowner, for a project to develop 300-year-old stables on a country estate outside Edinburgh as a "lifestyle destination".

It's a model that Avoca had already rolled out with its food and clothes outlets at two of the Dublin region's prettiest historic estates: the Slazenger family's Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, and Malahide Castle, north of the city.

Under Simon Pratt, Avoca has impressively ridden out an Irish recession that must have seemed custom-made to sink a business built around discretionary spending by well heeled consumers. Its popularity with tourists means the business is already tapping into international taste to a greater extent than its geography would suggest.

But, by tapping Amanda Pratt's experience without necessarily buying into the business, the duke may be onto something. Britain doesn't lack for heritage brands, even if it did aristocratic landowners could probably root them out of the estate records with little hassle. In fact, TV's 'Downton Abbey' means Britain's big houses and their owners have effectively become their own aspirational brands.

Besides, without an established global caché, Avoca will be launched in the UK and elsewhere as a new entrant, so the challenge for its new owners and the management team that will continue to be led by Simon Pratt will be to build a business from the ground up.

In that context, it may be that experience of developing the Avoca product is as valuable as the product itself.

With both siblings set to enter new territory, potentially as rivals, it looks like the Avoca story has yet to run its course.

Irish Independent

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