Craft shops: Moving from the Stall to the Online Store


When a retail giant like Penny’s, whose market strategy has traditionally been pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap, suddenly takes a leap into the eCommerce arena, you know there has to be something to this online retailing.

From Tesco to Amazon, these massive retailers have recognised a shift in consumer behaviour. Customers no longer have the luxury of an hour for lunch with which to wander around the shops or time after work with which to do the grocery shopping. Nowadays lunch invariably consists of a hastily inhaled sandwich while manning the phone-lines and absorbing the latest updates through social media platforms, while grocery shopping is ordered sitting in traffic dreaming of dinner but making your way to the gym instead. Retailers have to fit into this new fast paced world to prosper. The manner with which they do this will be the difference between making enough to put bread on the table, or, making so much they manage to give the whole family gout.

A company could be fortunate, like An Post, where this tidal wave of change carries them from one era to another seamlessly; as snail-mail dies a death, parcel delivery from online purchasing has increased dramatically, and looks set to continue into the future. Postmen are no longer shoving unwanted bills into spider infested post-boxes, but rather are more akin to Santa’s elves asking people to sign for little parcels of joy.

However, if you are not so fortunate, you must then be a little creative.

Online shopping offers the small and agile retailer a chance to reach the hearts and minds of their customers, and through that, their wallets. There have been leaders in this charge; C&A allowing the number of virtual likes to be shown above the product in their physical stores, Urban Hitlon Weiner giving credit to customers for posting selfies, Kate Spade creating a digital storefront.  These strategies take advantage of activities in which their customers are already engaged and capitalise on them. They convert product interaction into purchase opportunity, turning the passive consumer into an engaged advocate.

All around us the traditional tools of retail are being adapted and modernised. “Customers who purchase this item also purchased…” has become the online version of sweets at the till. “Share this purchase” is the online equivalent of parading the bargain you picked up at lunch to your co-workers. “What other customers are looking at right now..” induces the same panic of a half empty shelf holding this Christmas’ must-have item.

Communication is moving forward, and retail is moving with it. The new era holds untold opportunity to those who embrace it, ask HMV what happens to those who don’t.

Grandma Knits For Baby – Setting Up a New Business

grandma Knits for Baby

In the olden days (let’s say 10 years ago) a fundamental requirement for opening a shop, was having a shop premises. That is no longer the case. Online shopping has increased in popularity, now accounting for 14% of all retail, and increasingly t is becoming the method of preference for certain groups of consumers. This matched with the advent of online market-places like ebay, etsy, folksy etc – means that online shops are now a very lucrative and viable option.

Set up costs are minimal. A potential entrepreneur has just to register a shop on one (or all) of these markets, a little like a person would have opened a stall in a flea-market before, and display their goods. Usually the market charges a very small amount to display an item and then takes a commission when the item is sold.

However, as a potential consumer cannot physically touch and feel the goods, the success of an online shop lies in their ability to photograph and describe the item. This replaces the meeting of the artist in the flea-market or craft fair. It replaces seeing their hard-working hands and hearing them talk passionately about their goods. All that would have been conveyed in that brief but vivid meeting has to be funnelled into a short text description. This has to paint a picture, give context to the item, give it a past, make it authentic, and allow it to stand out from the other similar items.

Not an easy task. However, one I attempted while setting up a shop for my Mum called Grandma Knits For Baby. She resisted this idea initially. She loves to knit for children, babies in particular, and will often knit for any baby, no matter how remote the connection, just because she can and she loves to. People have often remarked on the incredible quality of her jumpers and cardigans, but because Mam has been doing this for so long, she usually brushes off these compliments with a pinch of salt. She just doesn’t see the incredible skill that she has, and that tragically hand-knitting clothes is a dying art form, getting rarer in a fast high-tech world.

Grandma Knits For Baby

Grandma Knits For Baby is ultimately a two woman show. Mum brings the beauty (gorgeous hand-knit works of art) and I bring the brawn (I do the heavy lifting in terms of listing items, writing descriptions, handling customer queries and processing orders) – these creative types don’t love the administration of it all!!

So far it has worked very well. We have had a steady trickle of orders, and our brand is getting out there. Let’s see what happens when wooly-jumper season is back upon us.


About Grandma Knits For Baby

This shop was born from Grandma’s love of knitting little treats for little tykes.

Grandma is a talented experienced knitter who for the last 45 years has been knitting little garments for friends, family, neighbours, friends of the family, friends of friends … the list goes on, but really she knits for anyone in her life who has been blessed with a little miracle in their lives. This shop was born from her love of knitting little treats for little tykes, so that she can share, even just a little bit, in the immense joy and celebration a family feels when a new baby is brought home.

As a Grandma each piece she creates is as soft, delicate and cute as it’s intended recipient, however as a mother she knows that each piece must also be practical, easy to take on and off, easy to wash, easy to dry, warm and comfortable on little baby. It is her many years experience of caring for little babies that makes her creations so perfect.

Knitting is an ethnic craft and is part of the Irish heritage. It is a skill that has been handed down from generation to generation. The craft originated in fishing villages as the thick wools allowed fishermen to work in the water all day without catching chill, but anyone who knows Ireland in the wet damp winter months knows that one does not need to be near the sea to be wet all day in Ireland.

Traditionally knitting was a craft women practised and tradition has it that many of the stitches created had symbolic meanings that the women cast on their loved ones to bring them good fortune or protect against ill winds. Grandma takes a little of this folklore and knits it into her creations to wish the little ones happiness and safety in their first steps on the pathway of life.

Cathy Clarke – Shop Assistant

Cathy helps Grandma with admin, form filling, wool fetching, parcel posting and all the technical parts that Grandma couldn’t be havin’ with at her time of life. Cathy is the general dogsbody that keeps this ship a float!


Grandma – Creator

Grandma is the creative power behind this shop, without her skill, expertise and experience there would be no knits for the little babies.

Grandma Knits For Baby

Stay Chic on a Budget

Topic: Fashion, Budget


Even though you mightn’t be on a €100,000 salary, that doesn’t mean you can’t dress like you are! Now is the time to stop to stop lusting over those designer handbag and shoes and to start purchasing the next best thing, at a fraction of the price, saving you a serious amount of debt and possibly an argument with your spouse. So here are some of my current top picks that I think every girl should treat themselves to this side of Christmas!



“Give a girl a pair of heels and she can conquer the world”, however I don’t think it would be possible for me to conquer the world if food has been eliminated from my everyday life (priorities). Yes these heels are amazing and will go with every outfit and will be worth every penny in the long run, but I don’t know about you but my pennies tend to not add up to this amount!

Don’t worry you won’t have to walk around like a sad, stumpy pauper anymore, thanks to every fashionista’s messiah: Romwe.


Ok, so they might not be made in Italy or from the highest quality “leather”, but they do look damn good and will save you over €430, so you can keep your heel, head and bank balance high!

It may or may not be a personal goal of mine to own this bag, and it may or may not make me feel very sad to have to look up images of this bag but how and ever. This is an extraordinary bag, with an EXTRAORDINARY price tag.

Unfortunately, as winning the lotto is not a common occurrence in most people’s lives and neither is having €6000+ to spend on a bag I’m afraid that we have no other choice but to look elsewhere (no matter how much it may hurt).


Boohoo doesn’t know it yet but it has saved lives and livelihoods by producing this beauty. Saving you over €5700+ you can now purchase that second hand car you were looking at or go on those 4 imaginary holidays you planned this year.



Ok so this watch mightn’t hold such an extreme price tag as the other two items but still it’s not something most people would just casually buy for themselves. (Think of the amount of outfits and alcohol you could get with that money!)


This statement watch is statement enough for me to live and happy and long life with. With a price difference of a whole decimal point shift to the right, it’s worth the trip into the accessory shop (and for me a trip down memory lane, ah luminous clip-ins where would I have been without you)



And if you’re looking for that perfect pair of designer sunglasses and think they are completely out of your reach, think again. A much, much cheaper (and slightly cheekier) way of achieving that lifelong dream of strutting around in those Chanel 5217’s is to ask very nicely. No seriously, it may be a bit of a scavenger hunt but if you go around a couple of sunglasses retailers and ask for previous display items you’re bound to come across a gem or two!

Mary Flahavans’s Oat Biscuits

C36. buscuits 4

I can’t bake. I can’t really cook, but I definitely can’t bake. I cut too many corners and get ‘creative’ at precisely the wrong moment. Also I have a tendency to ignore the beeper on the oven if my TV programme is getting to a good bit. On the other hand, I am a very accomplished in the art of accidental incineration.

Then my husband arrived home with a welcome-pack from Flahavans – every oaty treat from their extensive range you could imagine. Delivered on the fourth week of a five week month it was like a Christmas Hamper to the family of Tiny Tim Cratchit. It didn’t matter what was in it, we were going to find a way of eating it.

The flapjacks (because they are basically biscuits) and the microwavable porridge (because the arrival coincided with a health kick) were quickly consumed, but we had no idea what to do with the other stuff, until I noticed that we had also been supplied with a tiny cook book by the fabulous Mary Flahavan. A quick flick through and without debate we decided some sweet treats would be the best use of our ingredients. We settled on Oat Biscuits.

Also in the spirit of national solidarity, I decided to make these with all Irish products.

C36. biscuits 1

Ingredients required:

  • 275g Flahavans Progress Oatlets
  • 250g Kerrygold Butter (Mary called for 225g, but the block comes in 250g so I just threw the lot in. Waste not, want not. And you can never have too much butter.)
  • 100g Odlums Plain Flour
  • 150g Tesco’s Castor Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Tesco’s Bicarbonate Soda

C36. buscuits 2


1. Preheat oven to 180oC
2. Blend oats in food processor until they are fine.
After getting a little advice from my friend Sue Turley on how to get my food processor to work I was on the road again.
3. Add remaining ingredients and blend again until dough comes together.
Now Mary must have a MUCH bigger food processor than I have because I had to split my mixture into thirds and blend it that way, but I think the result was close enough.
‘Comes together’ is also something that threw me. I was expecting a dough, like you have when you make scones, but this was more like half-dry putty; it stuck together but was a bit crumbly.
4. Cut into shapes with cutters (or a glass) and place on baking tray. No need to line or grease tray.
Again, with hindsight I noticed that Mary intended to make 40 biscuits with this recipe. I didn’t know this at the time and set about making the usual 12, but the mixture kept on going so in the end I made about 20.
The first 12 I put too close together on the baking tray and they began to merge together into one massive biscuit. I noticed this about 10 min into the cooking time and took out 6 biscuits and cooked the reminder for another 10 min and then but the 6 back in for 10 min. They turned out fine, but this recipe really spreads so leave plenty of space.
5. Bake in oven for 15-20 min until pale golden in colour and slightly firm.
6. Remove from oven and leave to cool on wire rack where they will harden into biscuits.

C36. buscuits 3


And there you have it – homemade treats that don’t cost the earth, and a way of using oats other than force feeding the whole family porridge for the month. What would we have done without Mary’s cookbook? If they very reinstate the Calor Gas Housewife of the Year Competition I think Mary would win unopposed for as long as she was willing to turn up!