Retail & Consumer News

Catie Riordan on consumer retail trends in the US

Catie Riordan works in the New York office of Enterprise Ireland, the trade and investment agency. Riordan talked to us about her work as a market advisor in the consumer retail sector, where she helps US companies to source Irish partners with innovative solutions for their biggest business challenges.

Please tell us about your background with Enterprise Ireland, New York

I’m from Dublin and I’ve been in the US for three years now (including two years in Boston and one year in NYC!). I graduated with a BA in Business and German from Trinity College Dublin and started my career at Enterprise Ireland, in the Boston office working with life sciences companies. In 2017, I was promoted to Market Advisor, Consumer Retail, in which I manage a portfolio of companies across subsectors including apparel, beauty, gift, home, and retail technology.

What do you enjoy most about working with Enterprise Ireland?

Making American companies aware of the quality of Irish products, and working with so many inspiring Irish entrepreneurs. I like making a positive impact and working with great people. It is an interesting, exciting and rewarding role.

What do US companies value most about working with Enterprise Ireland?

Enterprise Ireland offers US partners the security of knowing that due diligence has been carried out on each Irish company we recommend. We are trusted for both the quality of matching we offer and for how transparent and impartial we are – the needs and wants of the US companies we work with are always front of mind.

Can you describe an example of this value?

We have a longstanding relationship with the University of Notre Dame, with many Irish products sold in their large campus store. On game day, this store will have turnover in the millions! Enterprise Ireland brings the buying team to Ireland annually and connects them with companies of interest throughout the year. In 2017, we held an Ireland Day in-store, with a group of six Irish companies on game day.

What do US companies need from Irish suppliers?

Quality and value are very important. Retail buyers need to see product differentiation, and immediately be able to assess the tangible value of having this product on their shelf.

We are lucky in that there is also a good cultural fit between Ireland and the US. Irish companies are seen as flexible, easy to do business with, and that they work hard to build strong, lasting partnerships.

What categories of Irish products are most popular in the US right now?

Knitwear is always a huge category for Irish suppliers in the US and there are some great companies such as Aran Woollen MillsIrelands Eye KnitwearFisherman Out of Ireland and West End Knitwear who are really pushing the boundaries.

Similarly, there is great interest in tweed with companies like Magee, Mucros WeaversHanna Hats and Triona Design.

We are also seeing a rise in the number of Irish skincare and body care products coming to the US, with Pestle & Mortar, Cocoa Brown and Voya all very active in the US market.

How is Enterprise Ireland making a difference for Irish companies doing business in the US?

Enterprise Ireland has developed strong links with the Museum Store Association, representing 1,100 independent stores managed by curators selling high-end goods. Significant progress has been made in educating US museums on how they can benefit from opportunities presented by doing business with us and relationships have already been established with about 15 Irish companies.

What will be the top-three retail trends over the next three years?

1 — The dominance of Amazon

Amazon provides an opportunity for brands to sell directly to the customer and minimizes the challenges of working with a big box retailer, however, fulfillment pressures are increasing as consumers expect product instantly.

2 — Online/offline product mix

Brick and mortar stores will increasingly want exclusive products that consumers are unable to purchase on broader e-commerce platforms. Brands may need to have differing product categories for the different retailer and customer types.

3 — The well-educated consumer

Consumers are increasingly researching their purchases before buying online or in-store. Customer reviews and testimonials are critical, and consumers want to know about the brand and its values before making a large or thoughtful purchase.