With #BuyDonegalWeekend just two days away and over 160 businesses involved in the inaugural campaign, the organisers spoke to one of Donegal’s most iconic brands and businesses, Magee of Donegal. Stephen Harron, manager of the Donegal Town store first started work here 27 years ago, as a teenager. Here he tells us more about the Magee story, its evolution and the importance of their local Donegal market.
Magee was founded on tweed over 150 years ago when John Magee first established a small drapers shop in Donegal. This hardwearing, coarse fabric was handwoven across Donegal by part-time fishermen and farmers as the perfect fabric for dissipating the damp and cold weather, so often found in the North-West of Ireland. The Magee of Donegal shop still stands on the same site on the Diamond in Donegal since first opened by John Magee and weaving remains central to brand with the Mill located just across the river from the shop. Today the fourth and fifth-generation are still at the helm – Lynn, Charlotte, Paddy and Rosy.
When Stephen first started in Magee in the early 90s, they were very much known for ‘’our Tweed Suits and Jackets which were popular with tourists, especially American visitors. They will always be part of our heritage, however, the brand has diversified and we now have full lifestyle collections in both men’s and women’s which cater for both our local market and our international customers from all over the world.’’
Like most bricks and mortar stores and businesses in Donegal and across the country, this year has been a very challenging one, both in the retail and wholesale sectors of the Magee business. Building their online presence is something Magee have grown with their well established Magee1866.com digital platform, Stephen and his colleagues now have an even greater opportunity to focus on this business stream. “For us it’s vital that we can still trade through initiatives like click & collect and also offer a service to our customers should they want anything from the stores that is not on our online platform, to provide that extra element of customer service”.
Magee has also expanded beyond its core Donegal base and has two shops in Dublin, Magee of South Anne Street and Magee at Arnotts. In addition the Magee wholesale business caters for many independent retailers within Ireland, the UK and the rest of the world.
Not forgetting the importance of their domestic Donegal market, ‘’support from all of our local customers is so important to us. We very much look forward to getting our stores open again before Christmas and we hope that people will shop local and support all local businesses at this very unique time.’’ Also while this year has been challenging, it has also presented opportunities for Magee with staycationers frequenting their famed Donegal store during the summer months, many of whom had not been in Donegal ever before, or for quite some time.
Speaking about the #BuyDonegalWeekend initiative, Stephen said they were “delighted when we heard about the campaign from Donegal County Council. It’s really great to be involved in something like #BuyDonegalWeekend, which is not just about shopping local, but showcasing Donegal and our range of great businesses to a wider and global audience. We are planning a special offer for our Donegal customers over the weekend, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for the latest updates” #BuyDonegalWeekend takes place this weekend, Friday 6th until Sunday 8th of November. Find out how to get involved at www.buydonegal.com.