Saturday 19 January 2019

Caitlin McBride: The boom is back - and the prices are right at the high end

The Brown Thomas display on Grafton Street at the height of the boom (Photo: Steve Humphries)
The Brown Thomas display on Grafton Street at the height of the boom (Photo: Steve Humphries)
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

The boom is back. We’ve been repeating this mantra time and time again, in equal parts hope and fear, whenever we’ve heard so much as a whisper of retail excitement. But our suspicions have been confirmed and the verdict is officially in.

French fashion house Louis Vuitton reported a 35% increase in sales at its Irish boutique, comfortably nestled among designers like Hermès and Chanel at Brown Thomas’ flagship store on Grafton Street. The concession has an iconic address among high-end Irish shoppers, it's synonymous with celebrity sightings, people-watching and luxury shopping like no other. You're just as likely to spot Rory McIlroy shopping for signature monogrammed pieces as you are a more under-the-radar millionaire splashing on a Speedy bag from the new season Masters collection for €2,100.

Although the brand doesn’t divulge sales figures or reveal popularity of individual items, it’s obvious that the Neverfull (€895) and Speedy (€745) are among its best-sellers in Ireland. And its extraordinary boost in sales is down to a combination of an incredibly effective marketing strategy and the ‘smarter’ spending habits we’re adopting - i.e., buying less with more.

Unsurprisingly, the hallowed halls of Brown Thomas are buzzing with activity this time of year, but the most interesting action has taken place over the last 11 months where a number of different brands have launched, including cult activewear brand Lululemon, where prices start at €98 for leggings,a new Chlo é space in the accessories hall and such was the demand for the latest pair of limited edition Yeezy 350 V2s that shoppers were told to register in advance.

The Marvel Room launched with similar aplomb in October, with harder-to-find luxury items like the Dolce Gabbana Lucia Queen Shoulder Bag for €2,450 sprinkled among designer notebooks for €22.

There are only limited sizes left in Gucci’s kangaroo fur shearling loafers, which cost €795 and are delightfully impractical for the rainy Irish weather, not to mention the finite stock of their Velcro children’s runners for €168.

Around the corner, Grafton Street is now awash with Christmas décor and is also home to four new businesses in the last 12 months: Urban Decay, & Other Stories, the newly reopened Bewleys and Victoria’s Secret, which is opening with an exclusive preview on Monday.

Socially, it’s been evident that brands have more budgets to work with for some time. Events are frequent and full; press trips are plentiful and high profile celebrities like Millie Mackintosh, Victoria Beckham and Kelly Brook are identifying Ireland as a key growth market and making visits to our shores to inspire us (and our wallets).

And there has been a frenzy of launch events, especially in the run-up to Christmas, with lifestyle brands in particular offering gifting suites and Michelin starred dinners for VIPs.

It’s not only the luxury labels are reporting an increase in sales – and prices. Dunnes Stores’ vast collection of Irish designers has proven to be a successful business format for all parties. Names like Paul Costelloe, Lennon Courtney and Joanne Hynes all call the store home now, with the latter’s prices going into the thousands for some items, like a €2,200 shearling hooded coat.

And the spending isn’t exclusive to Dublin. Last winter, Selected launched three new stores around Ireland in Cork, Wexford and Dublin; while American retailer Gap opened a new store at Limerick’s Crescent Shopping Centre just last week.

New launches were aplenty in the beauty sphere with Harvey Nichols landed the coveted Irish sales spot for Rihanna’s FENTY beauty range and Hourglass launched in April. Its home at Dundrum Town Centre also underwent its own revamp with four new store launches this year, including Issa and Aldo.

Dublin based salon Oslo Beauty, partly owned by Amy Huberman and Rob Kearney, also offers a ‘gold perfection’ facial for €145 which uses 24 Carat Mineral Gold to help “recapture the energy and vitality” of your skin’s youth. Because if there’s one thing we needed to prove we learned lessons from the Celtic Tiger; it’s gold facials .

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