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Gwen Culligan of County Boutique. Photograph by John Kelly

Ennis fashion retailers rising to the challenges of Covid-19

THE personalised, customer-focused shopping experience that has become synonymous with the town of Ennis is still continuing despite the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
The pandemic has resulted in retail closures throughout the county, with businesses increasingly focusing their efforts online in a bid to meet these new unprecedented challenges.
The last few weeks have highlighted the importance of having an online shopping presence, according to Gwen Culligan of the County Boutique in Ennis.
While Patrick Burke’s is set to launch a personal shopping service utilising popular apps so people can purchase while still maintaining social distancing.
The County Boutique launched its website last year allowing people to buy the latest looks from the comfort of their own home. Gwen tells us they were “incredibly lucky” to already be online when the Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.
“We’re selling every day at the moment. I had been spending some time over the last few months putting things on the site, but I’ve been putting more and more up now. We had been using the site mostly for showcasing our dress stock, but when this hit we decided we would get more of our casual wear online because that’s what people are wearing,” Gwen tells us.
The service has been enthusiastically welcomed, giving customers a chance to not only look, but feel good as well in these uncertain times.
“Our customers who can’t get into town, and who won’t be able to for the foreseeable, are loving it. We’re talking to customers all the time on the phone. I had somebody on from Dundalk this morning and they told me, ‘It’s lovely to talk to somebody different’, she was just dying to have the chats. People are looking forward with hope to maybe getting out and wearing something nice again.”
With more and more working from home, casual wear and comfortable workwear has been particularly popular. “Initially people were maybe living in their tracksuits and jeggings or whatever. I think it’s really important, and people have said this to me as well, that when you get dressed and do your work-face and your work look, you just feel as if you’re in that mode. If you don’t, your day is a different kind of day. People have been putting on their work clothes, but they don’t need to be as dressy or as formal. They want to be comfortable so that’s the number one thing at the moment.”
The County Boutique are offering a home delivery service up to 2km, while orders from further away are sent by An Post. She believes that the people of Clare appreciate the chance to shop directly from an Ennis store, and the kind of customer service they provide.
Gwen is now focusing on updating the website every day and when they re-open the County Boutique will continue to embrace the opportunities offered by the web. She believes all retailers should look at the benefits of doing business online.
Meanwhile Patrick Bourke’s Menswear have begun plans for a re-launch of their online offering saying the current crisis highlighted previous “shortcomings” with their site. At the moment their website only offers an option to purchase gift vouchers and not clothing.
Preparations are now underway for a brand new website, and in the meantime the store is embracing another way of doing business. Patrick says they have had a lot of calls in recent weeks from people wanting to purchase. To cater for this, they are launching a service from this weekend allowing customers to Facetime or Zoom call for a personalised shopping experience where social distancing can be adhered to.
He explains, “The first call would be to suss out what you want, what you need it for, what colours you prefer, what size you are. Once I see you on Facetime or Zoom I could tell you what size you are just by looking at you. Then we’d be able to know what we would need to have out and we would make an appointment to come in to the shop at a time that suits you. We will probably do extended hours as well. We’ll get you suited and booted that way.”
He believes that even when restrictions are lifted, “none of us are going to come back with the same level of trade that we had” predicting there could be limits on the numbers of people who can enter retailers. “We won’t be able to have a whole wedding party together. It will be that way for a long time.”

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