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GIFTWARE & JEWELLERY - An Ireland retail perspective

Published: November 2000

Topline Summary

Category Definitions for the purposes of this report are:

Glassware: includes cut glass, crystal and contemporary ranges of stemware (lead based), and etched glass.
Ornamental China: including ceramic tableware, figurines and ornamental products made of china/porcelain.
Pottery/Tableware: mostly earthenware, but includes some wooden bowl and flatware.
Jewellery and Silverware: mostly Celtic jewellery and silverware (cutlery, table accessories, frames etc).
Candles: scented and unscented, beeswax, coloured and decorative candles.
Knitwear and textiles: knitwear aimed at the tourism market as well as linen textiles, hats and accessories.
Miscellaneous: covers a wide variety of products which can include prints/publications, tapes/CDs, picture frames, leather accessories, food products, key rings, cookware etc.  

Market Size

The giftware market in Ireland was worth IR£450m in 1999, or £352m sterling (Stg) at retail prices, and has more than tripled in size since 1994 when it was worth IR£123m.

Northern Ireland accounts for Stg£60m or 17% of the total market, against IR£373m in the Republic.

A sustained period of economic growth, the buoyant tourism market, and the expansion of the sector to include new categories are the key drivers behind the growth.

The market for giftware is forecast to grow at an average rate of 13% annually to 2001, with the market in the Republic projecting 14% growth against 7% in Northern Ireland.


In previous reports the giftware market has been split into two segments; ornamental products and tableware. Due to the expansion of the giftware category we have reclassified the segments; new categories include glass/crystal accounting for 28% of the market, ornamental china (15%), tableware/pottery (10%), knitwear/textiles (14%) and silverware/jewellery (12%). Candles have become an important sector and account for 5% of the giftware market. Miscellaneous items such as leather goods, prints and food products represent a further 16%. 

‘People are now buying giftware products for everyday use.'
Olive O’Connor, Air Rianta

Product Trends

Traditionally, the giftware sector in Ireland consisted principally of ornamental glass, china and
tableware products. Contemporary giftware is less ornamental than previous designs and more functional for everyday use. This trend has caused the two main segments of the market to overlap and other important segments to emerge such as pottery, knitwear, jewellery, prints,
leather accessories and candles.

A recent trend in the giftware market is the growing number of Irish manufacturers who have
forged alliances with designers. These include Waterford Crystal (John Rocha),Tipperary Crystal (Louise Kennedy) and Newbridge Cutlery (Paul Costello).This trend is expected to increase and extend to other giftware segments.


Based on estimates of domestic manufacturing output compared with CSO statistics on imports, Irish manufacturers’ share of the domestic giftware market (North and South) is 67% of the value of supplies to the market. However retailers tend to enjoy better mark-ups on imported products and the Irish share at retail or consumer prices is likely to be closer to parity at 50% of market value.

Imports of ceramics and china, candles and jewellery/silverware are growing at the fastest rates. Based on CSO statistics (which must be treated cautiously due to SIC code classifications), giftware exports for selected categories exceeded IR£107m in 1999, up 23% on the previous year compared to imports of IR£65m in 1999.

Between them LEDU and Enterprise Ireland, have an estimated 350 client companies involved in giftware manufacturing. The Crafts Council of Ireland report over 3000 members most of which are micro enterprises and collectively account for an estimated IR£92m turnover. The Irish Knitwear Exporters Guild (IKEG) represents 29 knitwear companies with a collective turnover of IR£23m at manufacturers prices.

While Irish manufacturers’ influence is visible in all segments, it is strongest in the crystal/glassware sector with a 90% share over imports. Other important sectors include knitwear, ornamental china, jewellery/silverware and pottery.

‘35% of our budget is spent outside Ireland, but this is increasing.'
Freda Hayes, Meadows & Byrne


Giftware retailing continues to experience substantial growth in Ireland. At the same time, the
traditional retail structure has changed slightly.

Approximately 1,200 independent giftware/craft retailers are currently trading throughout the country. These include the larger well established players such as Blarney Woollen Mills,
Kilkenny Design Centre, Avoca and the House of Ireland in the Republic and Wellington Giftware and the Gift Centre in the North.

Smaller traditional giftware/craft outlets continue to exist in the Republic, especially around the key tourist locations of Cork, Galway, Kilkenny and Dublin, yet in other peripheral locations, and in particular in the North, many of these small craft retailers have closed.

Multiple retailers, including Dunnes, Marks & Spencer and Next, have expanded their offer to
include giftware, homeware and jewellery products. Habitat is also a highly significant player in
this sector on both sides of the border and the majority of their giftware/homeware offer is imported from the Far East. 

‘Many Irish suppliers are pigeon-holed with too traditional designs.'
Dixons, Coleraine

Advertising and Marketing

In 1999 giftware and jewellery attracted expenditure of almost IR£590,000 in Ireland, the majority of which is confined to crystal, and to a lesser extent china.

Advertising expenditure is dominated by retailers and the press is a popular media, especially for crystal. 

Future Opportunities

The market is expected to grow by 26% by 2001.This offers Irish manufacturers substantial opportunities to increase sales in both the domestic and tourism markets.

During the research period, the following product opportunities were identified:
  • Knitwear/fleeces which appeal to Irish holidaymakers as well as overseas tourists.
  • Distinctive pottery ranges for both the tourist and domestic market.
  • Functional items of giftware such as candlesticks, bowls, lighting and home accessories which co-ordinate with other giftware/houseware ranges.
  • Contemporary designs of silverware and jewellery at ranges in the medium price points (£20-£80).
  • Occasional items such as picture frames, small tables and mirrors in natural materials such as wood, slate and ceramics.
  • Contemporary designs of elegant crystal/glass stemware with less cuts and more original silhouettes.

‘Irish knitwear manufacturers need to take more account of fashion trends, particularly
on fabrics and shapes'
Blarney Woollen Mills 


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