Who Are We?
Carrolls Irish Gifts is an Irish owned company and leading retailer of quality Irish clothing, jewellery and gift products. Founded in 1982, Carrolls Irish Gifts has been at the forefront of stimulating Irish brands for almost 40 years.
At Carrolls, we deliver an ever-changing selection of leading Irish brands who share our passion for exceptional quality products such as Official Guinness Merchandise, Aran Knitwear, Solvar, Trinity, Mullingar Pewter and many more. With 17 Irish stores, we are dedicated to welcoming visitors from all over the world and introducing them to our range of authentic products.
Get To Know Us A Little Better
The road to success is rarely straightforward but inspires learning, often in the face of adversity. We’re inviting you to follow the Carrolls journey from humble beginnings to present day as told by Founder and Chairman, Colm Carroll.
My family comprised of five boys and one girl. I was a member of the younger set of twins and came fourth in line. My father was a Civil Servant and although he worked hard, he had no aspirations of wealth and with his working class background was fearful of incurring bank debt. When I was a kid in Walkinstown, I collected old newspapers from the housing estates and brought them down to the paper factory who gave me 50p for a full pram load.
My mother was from Roscommon and came from a family of 13. She was extremely hard working and constantly encouraged us. I recall she would save every penny and often went down to the post office to lodge as little as 50p.
From the age of 12 my four brothers and I played musical instruments with support from our parents. We played music at various cabaret venues but for seven months of the year, we played seven nights a week at the Jurys Hotel. It was known as Jurys Irish Cabaret and we played there for 15 years. Music allowed us to tour all over Europe and America which gave me a sense of how audiences from around the world simply loved the Irish.
I resigned a job in the Civil Service and set up a wholesale company with a friend, Paul McGlade, Apollo One Discount Stores. I started up this retail operation in Westmoreland Street in Dublin, introduced a second store in Moore Street and finally a third store in Henry Street.
This was one of the first discount store operations in Dublin and was phenomenally successful. Despite a fantastic relationship with Paul McGlade, I decided to start up my own business. I opened my first retail store in a small shop in Dundrum in 1982 with a €10,000 overdraft from Bank of Ireland.
Hatching A Plan
I ploughed every penny I had into Easter Eggs which I imported from England on Good Friday 1982. The entire shop was full of Easter Eggs and nothing else. As luck would have it, I sold every single egg I had by Easter Sunday morning and with the profits went back to England and bought more stock. If my first risk with the Easter Eggs had failed then I would have had to close down my business and life would be a lot different now (these risks were repeated many times in the first few years).
It was a tough working environment but I loved every minute of it. I learned how to buy, how to import, how to sell, how to layout the warehouse, how to merchandise, basic stock control systems, accountancy skills, staff and customer pilferage. Basically I got a good grounding in a multitude of business disciplines. My main attribute at this stage was the ability to work hard. I worked 7 days a week, 15 hours a day for the first 4-5 years.
The Carrolls Evolution
In the early 1990s we had shops in Dundrum, Ballyfermot and four stores in the City Centre, all trading under the Bargain King Discount Stores theme. With the proliferation of Pound Shops etc, I realised we would have to change the business format and joined what was known as the Supertoys Group which gave us access to branded products such as Lego, Nintendo, Barbie, Sindy, etc. We then had a good mix of branded and non branded products.
After a particularly good summer of souvenir sales in the late 1990s, after talking to my two co-directors, Lorcan O’Connor & Ray O’Connell, we decided to exit our Discount store business of the past 17 years and to go entirely into the souvenir business. This was a risky strategy but we knew drastic decisions would have to be taken.
By the age of 47 I had lost two brothers and my father to heart problems but continued to expand the retail business and to purchase further properties.By 2006 we had 8 stores in Dublin City Centre with a further one opening at the end of November and another opening in January 2007.
The Carrolls transformation happened out of necessity. I was constantly looking at the business and reassessing. We recognised the potential in the growing tourist retail market in Dublin City Centre and we decided to specialise in this niche tourist retail area. Again at this time retail specialisation was a buzz area and I felt we should pursue it.
Despite having built a retail business that has been profitable and successful for almost 24 years, there is no respite or time to rest on your laurels. You must continue to keep tight controls, to be creative and innovate shop design and product range. I don’t think an entrepreneur ever really retires. Over the next few years I will be delegating and putting more management structures in place. Hopefully over the intervening period, some of my five children will express an interest in the business.
On the retail front there is a marvellous expansion opportunity at the airports and in major tourist centres such as Galway, Cork, Kilkenny and many other tourist venues around the country. We have expanded our business with the opening of The Aran Store in Dublin which features products steeped in Irish Tradition and represents the best in Irish Design.
One thing is for certain, we’ve come a long way and the future of Carrolls Irish Gifts is brighter than ever.