Jean McGrath owns The Baby Shop in Wilton Shopping Centre in Cork, which specialises in personalised gifts for babies.
Although she lost the busy passing trade from nearby Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) due to public health restrictions, her online business accelerated instead, with orders flooding in from all over Ireland and the UK.
Her online business has expanded so much since May that it has grown out of her home office and has rented a larger, purpose-built space in Ringaskiddy.
“November is usually the busiest month of the year in the shop, so it’s disappointing that we lost that. But I’ve been very busy with the online business and I’m very grateful for that,” Ms McGrath said.
“People have been so good to support local this year, people from all over the country have been supporting us online and we’ve had orders from the UK too.
In a way Covid was a blessing for us, it will be the making of our business because we can sell baby gifts to people right across the world now.
"We’ve had quite a few orders from the UK and we can personalise a gift and a card for someone and send it directly to them, without it having to be sent back to the buyer first.
“We’ve been working on the online business for the last six-seven years but it’s really taken off since March.
I’m conscious that my story is so different from the hospitality sector and I’m so grateful for the business we've had.
“We’ve been working seven days a week since Covid with online orders. When the shop opens again we won’t be able to keep up with both.”
Having a closed shop also gave Ms McGrath, who previously only closed on Christmas and St Stephen’s Day, an opportunity to lay a new floor in the shop and do a deep-clean.Jean McGrath: 'We’ve been working seven days a week since Covid with online orders. When the shop opens again we won’t be able to keep up with both.' Picture: Denis Minihane.
“I’m thankful that they made the announcement about reopening a few days before the reopening date to give us a chance to get the shop in order. We have stock boxes everywhere so it’ll be busy but exciting getting it ready for our customers again,” she said.
Controlling the crowds when shops do reopen this week is a slight concern and Ms McGrath urged people not to come out shopping in large groups.
“Some people don’t shop online, so they’ll be doing all their Christmas shopping in three weeks. It could be very busy,” she said.
Ms McGrath opened The Baby Shop in 2013 after having twins and noticing a gap in the market for a baby gift shop. She began personalising the products she sold and launched her own line, Jen&Rach, in response to market demand.