One of the dominant themes in recent weeks has been the desire to keep our money in Ireland, this year above all years. With so many Irish businesses struggling to keep afloat while the battle against Covid-19 rages on, many of us are determined that any Christmas season spending we do goes into Irish pockets.
With that in mind, Guaranteed Irish, the organisation that champions businesses based in Ireland, has unveiled a new website, GuaranteedIrishGifts.ie.
The site showcases hundreds of gift ideas from the best of locally-based craft, gift, food, beauty, and design businesses throughout the country and is part of a wider festive initiative by Guaranteed Irish to encourage everyone to shop local online and support their local economy.
The website features personalised and corporate gift ideas from a range of Guaranteed Irish member brands and businesses including artisan food and drink, beauty and skincare, craft and design, textiles and accessories, homeware and interiors, tourism and hospitality and much more. Shoppers can search by both category and location.
I asked Brid O’Connell, CEO of Guaranteed Irish, why the organisation decided to create the dedicated website.
"The idea for the website, which features more than 150 small Irish businesses and thousands of products, came from the public," she says. "During lockdown, people contacted Guaranteed Irish asking where they could buy authentic Irish products from firms that are employing people in Ireland.
"Consumers want to purchase items directly from a site that they can trust and know that their money is going straight to the maker, producer, creator.
"They are also very aware by shopping local they are playing their part in reducing the carbon footprint as fewer miles/ less transport is required."
The site is off to a strong start, with more than 10,000 hits a day since its launch in late October.
"It’s encouraging to see Irish consumers making the choice to support local business and communities across Ireland," Ms O'Connell says.
"As a direct result of making the choice to shop Guaranteed Irish, we are supporting local jobs in our communities throughout Ireland, building a sustainable local economy for the future of Ireland. This is now more important than ever."
With online shopping, there are always concerns about security and the trustworthiness of sellers, something Ms O'Connell says is another reason to look for the Guaranteed Irish logo.
"We are encouraging consumers to shop wisely online by looking out for businesses that carry the trusted Guaranteed Irish licenced mark on their website and those with an .ie domain," she says.
"GuaranteedIrishGifts.ie provides a collective shop window that you can trust, a place where you know you are contributing to the economy and holding jobs in your community.
"Guaranteed Irish is a business membership network championing business based in Ireland since 1974. The official Guaranteed Irish licenced mark is only awarded to businesses based in Ireland that support sustainable jobs, contribute to our local communities, and are committed to Irish provenance.
"Guaranteed Irish currently backs over 1,500 business members, employing 100,000 people across Ireland, generating an annual combined Irish turnover of €12.9bn."
Ms O'Connell believes it is crucial for businesses to trade online and helping their members do so is a priority for her organisation.
"The purpose of this initiative is to enable Irish-based retailers to enhance their online and offline offerings to meet the expectations of post-pandemic consumers in building a more sustainable business in the domestic and global marketplace," she says.
"Irish consumers are the largest online shoppers in the world. They have grown accustomed to the accessibility and convenience of ecommerce services offered by global businesses and expect the same shopping experience from their local businesses.
"This global pandemic has forced businesses that have procrastinated about e-commerce to go online to survive.
"It's really a matter of urgency and all shoulders to the wheel, so if we can help people at all create a new revenue, a new channel to sell their products, we are delighted to do that.
"The GuaranteedIrishGifts.ie initiative is an attempt to create a one-stop portal but Irish e-commerce solutions need to improve significantly.
"We have received the support of Magico, Blacknight, and eShopWorld, who are extending their e-commerce expertise to members that may wish to avail of improved digital tools and web support services as they adapt their business offering to meet the growing demand amongst Irish consumers for online shopping.
"We encourage all our members to continue to trade and to reach out to other businesses and support services to help them engage better online."
Tying in with the new website, Guaranteed Irish has also launched the #GuaranteedIrishChristmas campaign, calling on consumers to buy one Guaranteed Irish gift this Christmas to help support local businesses online.
Among the Guaranteed Irish member businesses featured are West Cork Biscuit Co, Kinsale Mead Co, Boru Jewellery, Scatter Box soft furnishings, Maser, Jill & Gill, Cahill Sports, Milis, Dublin Herbalists, Sheridans Cheesemongers, Arran Street East, Original Irish Hotels, Brooke & Shoals, Allgo, The Handmade Soap Co, and Spas.ie.