The matriarch of the Dunnes retailing family has been moving the clothing and supermarket chain upmarket in recent years, bringing on board designers such as Peter O'Brien, Paul Costelloe, Carolyn Donnelly and Joanne Hynes to improve its fashion and homeware lines, but looking to increasingly emulate the likes of the UK's Waitrose in terms of its food and drink offering.
The company is one of the top three supermarkets in the country, with Tesco and SuperValu having roughly the same share of the market, around 22pc. Heffernan (72) is the second largest shareholder in the company, which shuns media attention, but since last September she reportedly has stepped back from some day-to-day tasks, letting her daughter Anne and niece Sharon McMahon increasingly take the helm.
The company does not reveal Irish financial numbers but profits in the UK were close to €15m in the year to January 2016. Some industry watchers suggest the business, comprising 156 stores in the UK, Spain and Ireland, could have a turnover of about €3.5bn a year. Late last year, a €284m dividend from accumulated profits in the UK operation was paid out in anticipation that sterling will fall against the euro as the effects of Brexit play out. Son Andrew has founded a fashion start-up in the US after leaving the family firm.