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Tim Bennett, Angela Bennett, Siobhan Cashman and Philip Bennett oustide Central Shoe Stores on Cook Street. Pic; Larry Cummins
Tim Bennett, Angela Bennett, Siobhan Cashman and Philip Bennett oustide Central Shoe Stores on Cook Street. Pic; Larry Cummins
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Business takes a step in the right direction with new store

How has business been since you opened?

It's been building and, once the word got out, we got back a lot of the old customers. We were able to bring that customer loyalty over to the new store. We knew we needed a bigger shop, so we went looking.

Why did you choose Patrick Street?

We actually took over an old shoe shop there. We had looked at a lot of places, but a lot of them weren't interested in taking on a small, local shop. They were looking for big brand names. We will keep the Cook Street shop open too. It's actually been busier there in the month since we opened up on Patrick Street. 

What was it like when the old store closed down?

We knew it was coming. Nobody was surprised. At the time we never thought it would last as long as it did. The redundancy money helped us start this business though.

Were you involved in the original store for a long time?

My dad was the accountant there for 30 years. I was there for 25 years. I started off breaking boxes and worked my way up to running the stock, and running their store in Wilton for two years. So I know what it's like to set up a new business.

Why did you decide to keep the old store's name?

It's a well-established name that's well worth having. We wanted to bring it back for the previous customers, especially the men. Men's shoes made up about 50% of the sales in the shop, where in other shops it would just be 12%. There was a gap in the market left by the shop.

Tell us about your stock. 

We deal with a bit of everything. Our price range goes from 30 to 120, so you have a very dynamic range of people coming in. Our ladies shoe market had gone very traditional, so we are looking to get into some newer styles and trends to expand our customer base.

Are you using the same suppliers as before?

We're using the same suppliers who we know, and who know us. Every supplier was delighted to hear we were coming back. They were very happy to have another shop in Cork because a few have closed in recent years. We buy 99% of our stock from Irish importers. It's all traditional suppliers, who we have good relationships with. I've been dealing with them for 15 or 20 years.

Angela Bennett, Tim Bennett and Siobhan Cashman in the Central Shoe Store. Pic: Larry Cummins
Angela Bennett, Tim Bennett and Siobhan Cashman in the Central Shoe Store. Pic: Larry Cummins
Was the recession tough on the old shop?

It had actually started to improve a little before we closed. It was tough during the recession, but everyone needs shoes. We weren't hit as hard as others. At our price point, we were very competitive. Because of the layout of the old shop, split into three rooms, we were always overstaffed though. After seeing the improvement, we were happy, because we know it can only go up from here. If we come close to what we were doing in the old Central Shoe Stores, we'll be over the moon.

Is it hard to compete with big brand name shoe stores?

I don't try to compete because there is no point. They have very specific markets, they do what they do, and they do it well. We have our own ways of doing things, and it seems to work. Because we get so many male customers in, we have a lot more men's shoes, which means more male customers again.

What are the latest shoe trends?

Men's shoes always seem to stay steady. Certain things change, but never too much. For women, ankle boots are in at the moment. Boots are always popular this time of the year, but it's ankle boots this year.

In you opinion, what makes a good pair of shoes?

To me, comfort is everything. If you look after your feet, your feet will look after you. You can't push that on everyone though. Some people like something that looks good, some people like something that feels good.

What's in the future for the business?

Right now we're focused on building up business on Patrick Street. It's building, but it is still early days yet.