FINDING A WAY Located on Bridge Street for four generations, McGreevy’s Newsagents and Toy Shop are preparing for a very different Christmas.
With Christmas fast approaching, toy shops are facing into a festive period like no other.
With ‘non-essential’ retail hoping to be allowed open on December 1, shops like McGreevy’s in Westport are in for a busy few weeks of selling their Christmas stock while trying to manage social distancing.
Having an online presence has proved an invaluable resource during Level 5 restrictions, according to Donard McGreevy, who works in the family-owned business.
“It’s different for us this year because we’re in unknown territory,” says Donard, who is the fourth generation to work in the 116-year-old Bridge Street establishment.
“I set up the website during the first lockdown with my wife Laura last April so it’s all new to us this year.
“Generally, we get really busy in the first week in December … this year everything is so different.
“We saw a big pickup in the website in the first week in October when there was talk of a lockdown coming,” he says, referring to the panic that ensued when NPHET’s initial recommendation of Level 5 restrictions was publicly leaked.
“People were shopping early because they didn’t know what was ahead of them. It’s so hard to know what way it’s going to go.”
When The Mayo News spoke to Donard McGreevy back in May, McGreevy’s was one of the few businesses in the west Mayo town that had remained open throughout the spring lockdown.
While they had to close the toy shop, the downstairs newsagent and grocery shop stayed open, which helped keep things ‘ticking over’.
While the upstairs toy shop is currently closed to the public, their website – McGreevy’s Toys Direct – has allowed them to operate a click-and-collect service for early Christmas shoppers.
Having this service has allowed them to maintain a steady trade in the lead up to December, a month in which Donard reckons the business makes ‘30 to 35 percent’ of its annual turnover.
“The website has been going good, we’ve had huge support both locally and nationally,” says Donard, whose father Don has been involved in the business for over 40 years.
“Being closed has had a massive effect on everything but because of the website things are still ticking along, which is great.”
Already demand is beginning to increase, with toys like Gotta Go Flamingo and Call Me Chloe proving hugely popular.
“We’re getting a lot of emails and Instagram and Facebook messages to see if we have certain items in stock,” he says.
“We’ve held a lot of products for people who have bought online who are waiting until they ease restrictions so they can come in and pay in store.
“In previous years everybody would’ve come into stores but now there’s more on social media and emails and phone calls, before it was all in person.
“People understand that we are closed. You’d have an odd person that has a birthday party and in that case what we do is we run upstairs and get them the gift they’re looking for.
“You can’t turn around to a kid and say ‘No, you can’t have a present because of the lockdown’.
“We’re trying to facilitate it as best we can for people. We don’t want to disappoint anyone, but we have to work within the guidelines set down by the government.”
Donard says that he would prefer to see the government allow toy shops to open their doors sooner rather than later, which would allow them to control the amount of people allowed into the toy shop at any given time.
Despite a ‘tough’ 2020, he believes that the message of ‘shop local’ will hit home more than ever this Christmas.
“I think it’s extremely important to support local businesses that have been closed for so long” he says.
“I do think people are more conscious of supporting local this year.
“We’re one of the lucky retailers, some retailers have been closed for months on end.
“We’ve got some feedback from customers online and locally … that they’re glad to be supporting a small local business rather than the bigger retailers. Most of our prices are competitive so they’d prefer to give it to a smaller retailer rather than larger retailers.
“People are really buying into ‘buy local, support local’. It has a massive effect if the money is kept local, the knock-on effect is massive.”