Investment veteran Patrick O'Sullivan is aiming to give the Irish craft sector a major boost with a new online hub which can generate sales in international markets.
O'Sullivan, who runs the annual Gifted Contemporary Craft and Design Fair at the RDS - a major showcase for the Irish craft industry - has launched a new online marketplace featuring some of the country's best craft-makers and artisan food producers.
Giftedfromireland.com is a curated online hub that will feature Irish craft and design from up to 500 of the country's most talented makers.
"The fair has been very successful over the 35-plus years that we've been involved in it," said events specialist O'Sullivan, the founder of Irish cinema group Showtime Cinemas, which he sold to UK-based Vue Entertainment in 2018.
"But we're not immune to the changes in the retail landscape. So over the last couple of years we've been slowly dipping our toe in the water and putting systems in place to launch a virtual version of the fair. The pandemic has accelerated a change that was happening anyway."
Delivering worldwide, the site opens up a window for an industry which has lost many of its routes to market since the pandemic began. Many of the exhibitors from the annual Gifted fair are already featured on the site with more on the way.
"We have about 200 of the 500 exhibitors from the fair signed up and we are going through the process of putting their products onto the site," said O'Sullivan. "And we're also talking to the remaining 300 exhibitors so we're hopeful that by the end of the process the vast majority of them will be represented on the site.
"We do the spade work in terms of the marketing and generation of sales and they can concentrate on what they do best."
O'Sullivan said the site is initially focusing on the domestic Irish market, in particular the 40,000 regular attendees at the annual RDS fair.
"When we are confident that everything is going well then we have plans for a further phase to expand the site into the diaspora market, whether that be in the UK, North America, Canada, Australia or wherever it may be. And that's the beauty of the internet - you can scale at that exponential level."
O'Sullivan said he conservatively estimated that the RDS fair, a popular destination for people looking to buy Christmas gifts, sells about €1m-worth of crafts each day over its five-day run.
"This obviously proves that there is a market there and people want to buy and the craftworkers want to sell. We want to establish a marketplace for Irish craftwork and generate more sales. Craftworkers have used the time they have had during the pandemic to develop their offerings but it can be difficult for them to have skills, the money or sometimes even the broadband to develop a web presence. That's where we can step in to help them by having a central marketplace website," he said.
Sunday Indo Business