IN THE SPOTLIGHT Watched by the television cameras of the national news media, Managing Director of Carraig Donn, Pat Hughes, talks An Taoiseach Enda Kenny through a part of the manufacturing process during his visit to the company’s main facility in Westport yesterday. Maureen Mullen anxiously continues with her work hoping not to miss a stitch.
Carraig Donn announce 150 new jobs, 40 of them in Westport
‘EVERY job is a pathway to prosperity’ according to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was in Westport yesterday for the formal announcement of 150 new jobs in locally-founded and headquartered company Carraig Donn.
Up to 40 of these jobs will be in Westport in the areas of manufacturing, on-line shopping and retail warehousing and support, and will be based at the company’s head office and manufacturing facility on The Lodge Road.
Fifty-seven of these jobs have already been created through recent expansion of the Carraig Donn retail chain, and the remainder of the jobs will be spread across the country with the planned opening of 12 more stores in the next 18 months.
With 28 outlets nationwide - including six opened in the last four months - and plans for ambitious expansion and growth over the next two years, Carraig Donn today employs 357 people nationally - 105 of them in Westport - and has recently launched an on-line store www.carraigdonn.com.
The on-line store has been an overnight success and with continuously growing sales reaching €25,000 last week alone, the dedicated staff of two has grown to seven in this department in just a few months. This figure is expected to at least double in 2012.
“We have gone global and are here to celebrate our arrival into the 21st century,” said Managing Director of Carraig Donn, Pat Hughes, at yesterday’s announcement. “We put a budget of €100,000 towards developing the on-line store and while we were somewhat apprehensive about that, we are now delighted with the progress and results so far.”
An Taoiseach used the opportunity to press on his Government’s commitment to job creation, calling unemployment ‘a really big challenge given the flatness of the indigenous economy’.
“ I have to say that we really are committed to driving a jobs agenda.” he said. “If every company in the country could employ just one person that would have a massive impact on the live register and on national morale.”
With growing uncertainty about what is occurring in the European Union, and speculation rife nationally on where Ireland will fit into EU plans, Enda Kenny was ambushed by the national media on the issue upon his arrival at Carraig Donn, and argued that the single market and its potential, offers further massive scope for Ireland in a range of sectors.
Proven track record
“From that point of view Carraig Donn have a proven track record in terms of creativity, design scale and scope, the quality of their product and their ability to sell and communicate,” he said, bringing the focus back to the announcement at hand.
“I am very familiar with the company, and not only has it maintained itself but it has grown and prospered, and as a Mayo man it is a pleasure to enter various shopping centers across the country and see the Carraig Donn brand there. They have broken new ground with expansion on QVC (US shopping channel) and their products are on sale right across the world and so this is an example of a small Irish company actually putting its money where its mouth is and believing with some conviction that they have the capacity to do the job. At a time of such economic downturn and difficulty, internationally and at home, it is inspiring to see a company expanding in a time of crisis.”
Pat Hughes lauded the efforts of his young committed, energetic and focused staff and management, and recounted the history of Carraig Donn. He singled out his brother Vincent, Anne Harrison, Colette Caulfield, and Triona Kelly for their drive and work in the company, and revealed that Carraig Donn had come from dark times in recent years to now experience further growth.
In a direct plea to Enda Kenny, he asked the Taoiseach to address the issue of upwards only rent reviews, which he said threaten to strangle the retail industry. “I am very concerned by this and there may be a lot of jobs lost in retail in 2012 because of it. You helped the banks, now help our sector,” he said.
Attending the announcement and facility tour were Minister of State Michael Ring and Deputy Dara Calleary, both of whom also welcomed the news, along with Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Austin Francis O’Malley, Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Christy Hyland, Mayo County Manager Peter Hynes and President of Westport Chamber of Commerce, Maurice Mellott. Also present were a vast number of prominent business people, bankers and entrepreneurs from Westport and Mayo, along with other members of the Hughes family and several other local and county councillors.
Carraig Donn was founded by Pat’s parents Padraig and Maura in 1965. Today they have turnover in the region of €30 million with 60 per cent of their manufacturing output exported. Their indigenous knitwear manufacturing plant in Westport remains Ireland’s largest home-based knitwear facility.