Showcase 2018: A Buyer’s Insight: Melissa O’Gorman, Kilkenny Group

Showcase is our biggest trade show of the year. All of our buying team attend and some of our retail managers too. It’s a great opportunity for the teams to meet our existing suppliers, to see what’s new and to see how brands are merchandising themselves, while, of course, keeping an eye out for new talent. Showcase provides a great opportunity for us, as buyers, to see many makers under one roof. It’s really great to see so many brands stand side-by-side in this environment as it gives us the chance to see what really stands out. It’s very inspirational to see the very best Ireland has to offer.

For me the fashion shows and workshops that are held during the event are very beneficial in the decision-making process. They really bring the products to life for the buyers. Meeting the makers, new and existing, face-to-face, is a very important part of what we do and it helps to develop the supplier-retailer relationship from the start. New ideas and collaborations frequently stem from our Showcase encounters.

Showcase is absolutely beneficial in terms of picking up new designers and craftspeople as well as in spotting emerging trends. Every year we bring on new designers that we find at Showcase. It’s great to see them in this environment - see how they present themselves, speak to them about their packaging and get a real sense of how they will fit into our family of brands. We certainly see emerging trends here too which helps us to plan the season’s buy. Showcase is a great place to see newness and creativity coming through. Textiles and knitwear are real trend items at the moment and it’s fantastic to see how this area is developing and growing. Kilkenny has always had great relationships in these departments and we have committed to growing our brands this year.

The knitwear in the fashion shows this year was a real highlight for me. How the looks were pulled together [by stylist Catherine Condell] was very inspirational. We are very excited about the potential here. I would have to say that the knitwear designers overall at the event were fantastic this year and showed a lot of newness. Brands that really stood out for me were Irelands Eye, Áine, McNutt and Foxford (who never fail to impress). We worked with Irelands Eye on a window installation having seen their stand at Showcase. We brought it in-house for six weeks and gave it a very large presence. The sales growth was very impressive – it really showed us how we can learn from Showcase and use these relationships to our advantage.

There are different things that jump out each year at Showcase. However what jumps out at the buyers can also depend on what we, as a business, need at that particular time. While textiles are big this year, last year we saw an increase in demand for art and prints. The important thing for our buyers is to know what trend is coming so that we are buying what’s right for our customers.

There are 15 Kilkenny stores around Ireland and the company employs 280 staff.  The company is renowned for its promotion of Irish craft and design and is a go-to retail destination, both on and off-line, for those seeking the very best of Irish design across home and gift to fashion and jewellery.

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