Lots of lolly: taste of nostalgia leads to sweet success
IT'S a pretty sweet idea: space dust, liquorice shoelaces, satin cushions -- whatever your favourite -- children of all ages are getting to indulge themselves with the explosion of sweet shops all over the country.
Now the fastest-growing sector in retail, old-fashioned sweet shops have mushroomed in towns all over Ireland and one British franchise company is hoping to create 150 jobs by the end of next year.
Mr Simms Olde Fashioned Sweet Shoppe is opening its ninth Irish outlet in Bandon, Co Cork, next week.
Plans are already at an advanced stage ahead of the opening of shops in Tralee and Macroom in the next three weeks, to add to those in Limerick, Cork, Dungarvan, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, and Clare.
Mr Simms Ireland managing director John Costello said it was the shops' "feelgood factor" that appealed to people.
"They appeal to people of all ages, from the baby in the pram to the old lady who remembers buying her satin cushions when she was a child," Mr Costello said.
"People love going into the shops who can't afford to buy their kids new trainers anymore but who still can afford a couple of euro for some sweets."
In Killarney alone, two independently owned sweet shops have opened since the start of the summer.
Michael Cotter and his partner Galina Bart opened Mr McQuire's Olde Sweet Shop in May and say they're beginning to enjoy some return trade.
"So far so good but Killarney is a summer town and we do worry about winter," he said.
Meanwhile, Niall O'Loughlin (32) is hoping to recreate some of the authenticity of his grandfather's general grocery store in Miltown Malbay with his 'Granda Charlie's Auld Sweet Shop', also in Killarney.
Mr O'Loughlin, who is diabetic, stocks a range of sugar-free sweets and has kitted out his shop with a 1920s counter and till and even an old wireless from the 1940s.
"The smell I associate with my grandfather's shop is aniseed and I have a jar of this that I open so customers can smell it," he says.
But Killarney's original candy man, Michael Sheehan, is bemused by the growth in the sweet shop sector in the town.
He's been selling old-fashioned sweets by the quarter from his licensed premises Reidy & Sons, on Main Street, since the 1960s.
When asked what he made of the new competition, he replied: "Sure, let them all have a go."
Sweet-maker Anton Shevlin of Athlone Sweets says that while there's definitely a boom in the confectionery business, he hopes it's not just a novelty.
"We sell a lot of our products to sweet shops and its great to see people going back to basics but we must remember this has not been the trend in Ireland where we tend to go for one-stop-shops where you can buy your newspaper, sweets and groceries in the one place," he says.