The annual Drapers Independents Awards 2021 were held on Thursday 23rd September at London Hilton Bankside. Drapers have been recognising excellence in independent retailing for 30 years, but in 2021, highlighting the achievements of this sector has never been more important in Ireland and the UK
As the sector builds a new future, the Drapers Independents Awards 2021 celebrated the fashion retailers and brands that have innovated to survive, supported their local communities, and built stronger businesses under the toughest of circumstances. This year's lifetime achievement award was presented to Donegal businessman John McElhinney, CEO and founder of McElhinneys Department Store in Ballybofey, Co. Donegal.
"We are delighted to give the Drapers Independents Lifetime Achievement Award to John McElhinney, founder of McElhinneys Department Store. McElhinneys celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and is a landmark independent department store in Ireland, with customers travelling across the country to visit its bridal rooms and occasionwear offering. As a young man, John built McElhinneys from the ground up, steering it through a flood in 1985 and a fire attack during the Troubles. It survived the successive lockdowns in Ireland thanks in part to its strong online operation and the loyalty of its customers.
Offering a wide range of brands and designers from around the world, McElhinneys is a modern, relevant and evolving department store at the heart of its community." Graeme Moran, Acting Editor, Drapers
Originally from Doochary Co. Donegal, John McElhinney and his family moved to Dooish in the early 1960s. John began his career as a drapery assistant in a local store and from this experience, he started his entrepreneurial venture travelling and selling groceries, clothing and household items from the back of a Dodge van. Having always dreamed of owning his own store, John realised his dream on the 4th of May 1971, opening his first premises – a small 500 square foot store - on Glenfin Street, Ballybofey. From the beginning, McElhinneys became a household name throughout the North-West for the quality, service, and value that John gave to his customers.
As one of the few remaining independent, family-run department stores in Ireland, and indeed Europe, the consistent factor of McElhinney's success throughout the years has been the drive, ambition, and initiative of John McElhinney. Despite many hardships over the years from floods, fires and recessions, John has created a destination store in the heart of North West of Ireland, Donegal. Today McElhinneys is a multi-award-winning retail destination store and one-stop-shop, with fashion, beauty, homeware, accessories, lingerie and bridal – all housed within a 100,000 square foot state of the art department store.
“Stickability is really what I tell people, you’ve just got to stick at it and believe in yourself and believe in what you’re doing.” – John speaking about McElhinneys on Episode 1 of the McElhinneys Podcast ‘From Fires to Floods’ available on Spotify and YouTube
In November 2012 John and his team launched their multi-award winning online store – mcelhinneys.com. The business expanded with the growth of the online store which allowed McElhinneys to provide its 5-star customer service worldwide. The foundation of McElhinneys was built and continues to grow around John’s passion for retail and desire to be relevant in the ever-changing retail environment, and this has allowed McElhinneys to become a global brand. Mcelhinneys.com ships to 100’s of countries worldwide, and the online store has been growing year on year.
“I would like to thank my family for their continued support throughout the years, my wife Eileen, my Son Martin and his wife Angela, my daughter Catherine and her husband Joe and also my grandchildren. To my hard-working and loyal staff both past and present, thank you for your dedication and passion for McElhinneys throughout our 50 years in business.” – John McElhinney speaking after receiving his lifetime achievement award on September 23rd 2021 from London Hilton Bankside.
From fires to floods John talks us through the moments that have shaped the past and defined the future and legacy of McElhinneys. Listen to John’s Story on the McElhinneys Podcast ‘From Fires to Floods’ on Spotify here > https://open.spotify.com/episode/2RISCHYQjnYKeFA9zWqK7G?si=PLuZoLC_RZmlfn2xHnMqmg
YouTube here >
McElhinneys is one of the few remaining independent, family-run department stores in Ireland, founded by John McElhinney in 1971. Offering fashion, beauty, homeware, accessories, lingerie and bridal all under one roof, the multi-award-winning retail destination, based in Ballybofey, Co Donegal is a one-stop-shop for all shopping needs.
Ruth Callaghan, Marketing Manager