Category: Archive

Report shows huge increase in Irish shops in U.S.

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

The U.S. now has got gift stores galore.

During the last five years, the number of Irish gift stores in the U.S. and Canada increased from 366 to a whopping 521. The estimated total retail sales of the Celtic and Irish ethnic sector was a massive $147 million in 1998, an increase of 142 percent from the $61 million recorded in 1994.

And a number of the most successful stores sell in excess of $1 million a year.

The stores are located throughout 43 states with, on average, a store for every 93,000 Irish Americans.

But on the East Coast, the proportion is a store for every 47,000.

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Almost half the stores are concentrated in traditionally Irish American strongholds such as New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.

During the last five years, however, there has been a noticeable south-westward shift in new ethnic store openings as increasing numbers of Irish Americans retire to the Sun Belt.

These are among the findings of a new report, The North American Market for Irish Merchandise 1999, to be released this Thursday by Enterprise Ireland and the North American Celtic Buyers Association, a trade association of Irish and other Celtic stores.

According to the report, details of which have been obtained by the Irish Echo, Irish retail stores in North America are enjoying an unprecedented boom with an average of 25 percent annual sales growth for each of the past five years and a record number of new Irish store openings.

"This channel is the best-kept secret in retail," Michael McNicholas, Enterprise Ireland’s vice president for consumer products in North America, said. He described the findings of the report as "amazing."

"In recent years, Irish stores have become more professional all around and they are getting the payback in record sales and growth," he said.

And it’s not just Irish and Irish Americans who are opening the new stores.

"An increasing number of entrants to the market, some of whom have no Irish heritage, are opening Celtic stores because they see them as profitable ventures rather than a sentimental pastime," McNicholas said.

Enormous growth

During the last five years, 238 new Irish stores opened while 78 closed, a net gain of 155. Almost 90 percent of Irish stores are single branch, independent operations, 44 percent of them are planning up upgrade or expand their outlets. Annual sales range from $116,000 for a small shop, 500 square feet or less, to well over $1 for the larger outlets of 2,000 square feet or more.

The success of these ethnic stores mirrors the enormous growth in American-Irish trade. In the past two years, Irish exports to the U.S. have more than doubled to a record $8 billion.

According to the report, the main products sold in Irish stores in the U.S. in 1998 were:

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