McKeon's the place to strike a heel deal!

David Tucker

WHEN times were good, women visiting Wexford for a weekend away would often buy four or five pairs of expensive shoes at a time during shopping trips to McKeon's.

Those days have gone, but the shoe shop is holding its own on 'the high street'.

Manager Jacinta Hartigan has been with McKeon's since it opened in Wexford in 1994.

'In the good days customers would come in and buy four or five pairs of expensive shoes, but the past four years have been tough,' she said.

'The customer who would have bought several pairs of good shoes at a time is now only buying one pair,' said Jacinta.

Money is very tight and many of those who do have money are keeping it in their pockets.

Jacinta's boss, Wolfgang Schnittger, makes the point that those lucky enough to be in work have far less in the way of disposable income, given the plethora of taxes and charges introduced by the government over the past few years of austerity.

'At least the government has run out of new things to tax,' said Wolfgang, who is directly involved in the running of McKeon's and Kings Shoes in Kilkenny.

A qualified accountant, he believes that the key to success in the shoe business to sell well known high-end shoes which guarantee quality with easily-recognised brand names.

McKeon's, which has around 4,000 pairs of shoes in stock at any one time, sells some of the best known brands in the world:

Clarks, Gabor, Ecco, Hoegl and Mephisto, Marco Tozzi, Wrangler, and the only major Irish brand Dubarry, adorn the shelves, with a wide range of styles and colours available.

Wolfgang describes McKeon's, which used to be owned by well-known Kilkenny businessman George Farrar, as a traditional shoe shop, far removed from the discount shoe stores which pop up selling no-name brands in towns throughout Ireland.

'If we had been a discount store, I don't think we would still have been here,' said Jacinta.

She says that while most shoes she sells are brown and black, window displays need to be more colourful with yellows, reds and blues to attract the eye from the street to the shop.

Wolfgang said that given the recession, there was a trend towards looking for lower-priced shoes.

But his best advice was to hold on until you could afford that little bit more because quality would always win out.

Mens' shoes is where the market has suffered most.

'Men are really cutting back and making their shoes last longer.

'In the past they might have had three or four pairs of shoes in their wardrobe and now they have one or two. They are looking for value for money but you get what you pay for,' said Jacinta.

'The best advice is to buy for comfort, not for looks,' said Wolfgang, sporting a pair of four year old Eccos that looked like they had been bought yesterday.

August is the busiest time with children and parents visiting the shop ahead of the return to school.

'Children always expected a new pair of shoes every season, but there are now some relieved parents when they find out their son or daughter hasn't gone up a size and can use the old ones again,' said Jacinta.

Pat Mahon is the assistant manager and runs the men's department.

Predicting future trends, styles and colours is something of an artform with the current appetite for wedges driving the market at the moment.

And while fashions may change, McKeon's business model is firmly rooted in traditional values and providing quality brands and service at the right price.

Wexford People

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