Six recessions later, family has success all sewn up
Published 11/03/2010 | 05:00
AN Irish family who traded their way through six recessions over the last century are defying the high-street gloom by opening a new store this week.
Anthony Ryan and his wife Katherine opened the family drapery store on Galway's Shop Street in 1909 and this week, their grandson Anthony opens a new menswear store in Eyre Square -- defiantly declaring there is optimism for trading in the west of Ireland.
"It is undoubtedly a challenging time to enter a new marketplace but I believe we have finally hit the bottom of the economic downturn and that now is the time to get ready for the upturn," Anthony Ryan told the Irish Independent.
Over the last century, the family traded through at least six financial downturns from the doldrums after World War One, the economic war during World War Two, the depressed 1950s, the 1980s with their hyperinflation, followed by the currency crisis in 1991.
However, the noughties recession, which hit deep in spring 2009, was "the most sudden and severe of all", said Anthony.
"Surviving in business is all about the ability to adapt and change so as to be ahead of the curve. Independent clothing retailers such as ourselves need to think outside the box and continually develop new business models which differentiate us from the multiples and other competitors and ensure the viability of our business."
Old shop records highlight tough trading times as the Ryan family "suited and booted" generations of Galwegians.
"There was hyperinflation after the World War One and you could see it in my grandfather's records, how wages doubled nearly in a single year, in 1919. One of his early customers was Nora Barnacle's mother, Mrs Barnacle from Bowling Green, who bought a coat for one pound 11 shillings in 1910," he said.
"My father Paddy came into the business at 20 after his father died in 1936 and he travelled all over the country looking for stock to sell because there was no stock coming in during World War Two. He and my mother, Breda, ran the business for years and she is still very involved."
With two other stores in Galway -- a homewear store in Lombard Street and a ladies' fashion shop in Eglington Street, the Ryans now see their future in forming strategic alliances with key suppliers. For their new investment, they have teamed with Remus Uomo with a unit in the Eyre Square shopping centre selling Italian-style suits. They have taken on five new workers, bringing staff levels to 135.
The store launches today with the start of a discount week and a gala party at which the winner of the competition to find the West's Sexiest Man will be announced. The prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to the Italian Grand Prix in Milan.
Local celebrities attending include Hector O hEochagain, new Galway United manager Sean Connor and local hurling hero Joe Canning.