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How our little treats are making sweet business

WE can't afford to spoil ourselves any more, yet we clearly feel we're worth some small luxuries, because the demand for affordable treats such as boiled sweets and cupcakes is behind several new businesses opening up around town, writes Suzy Belton It seems a little bit of what we fancy is not only doing us good, but is also proving a real boost for businesses during the recession.

Because as many of us exchange the likes of a spa break and a massage for more affordable treats, such as sweets and nail polish, the rise in our budget buys is behind many new business successes.

Sweet entrepreneur David Jordan has overseen the opening of 10 Aunty Nellie's Sweet Shops around the country in the past 13 months. Whether visiting Aunty Nellie's shop in Temple Bar or Greystones, people can indulge in a walk down memory lane by buying old-fashioned confectionery such as dip dabs, milky teeth and fizzy cola bottles.

According to Jordan, a 32-year-old businessman with a background in hospitality, it's our yearning for nostalgia and simpler times which is behind the success of Aunty Nellie's.

"I worked in high-end five-star hotels in the boom and would see couples put their credit cards behind the bar and start off drinking mojitos costing €25 and then when drunk, pay €500 for a bottle of champagne," he says.

"It was madness, and it's not a bad thing that it has ended, yet you wouldn't wish hard times on anyone. I think when people come into Aunty Nellie's they leave their troubles at the door and for a short while they don't think about negative equity and redundancy and recession, but are reliving moments from their childhood," he says.

"You go back in time when you walk in the door, and can hang out for half an hour and spend as little as 50 cents, and children can play behind the counter if they want," says Jordan, who currently runs four Aunty Nellie's while the other six are run by franchisees.

If Jordan's sweet-shop business is booming because of our desire for little treats which won't break the bank, it seems the beauty world is also benefiting in these nail-biting times, and from a dramatic boost in the sales of nail varnish. The cosmetics industry is making nail polish in daring colours unheard of a decade ago, and introducing innovations from glitter and crackled surface treatments to stick-on nail art and even nail polish that comes with a scent.

The NPD Group, which carries out consumer market research into cosmetics trends, has reported a 67pc increase in the sales of department store polishes in 2011, with a 29pc increase in high-end polish brands.

It has concluded that in these times of economic collapse, female consumers are turning to nail polish priced from as little as €5, and in vivid colours and designs, to lift their look and their outlook.

Cakes

The recession has also resulted in a fortuitous sugar rush, as more of us can no longer be bothered to resist our desire for tasty treats like cupcakes.

Joanne Peat is a 28-year-old interior designer but when the market in interiors went belly up, she looked around to see what she should do next. She decided to follow in the footsteps of her granddad who was a loyal baker for Bewleys for 40 years. She opened The Bakehouse on Bachelor's Walk eight months ago and business is booming. Cakes are baked on the premises and are served with old-fashioned, loose-leaf tea.

"During the boom new restaurants were opening up all the time and we were getting used to eating tapas and Japanese and the like," Joanne says.

"I think we now want to go back to when things were simpler and I find that traditional dishes like corned-beef sandwiches and Dublin coddle and Irish stew are big hits. Flavoursome food made from good ingredients and presented in a nice environment, is what people are looking for these days. It's a comfort thing. Thankfully, business is going well. The idea was to bring a 1950s suburban kitchen into an urban setting, with good food and cakes, and to treat customers to old-fashioned hospitality," says Joanne.


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