In some positive news to emerge during this difficult time, Irish health retailer Lorin Taylor has opened a second branch of her eponymous shop Licorice Healthfoods (her real first name is Licorice), in Birr, Co Offaly.
Taylor, who has worked in health food retail for approximately 15 years, launched her first store in Portumna, Co Galway, in 2012, and took the decision to expand in 2019. “About a year ago, I was thinking about how to move forward, then discovered that Birr – which is only about 20 minutes’ drive from Portumna – had no health food shop and I felt I had something to offer,” says Taylor.
Taylor says the 65m2 premises are bright and airy with a pretty rustic style and that the new Licorice Healthfoods has a similar mix to the first – mainly supplements-driven – but she is aiming to offer more refills and bulk items.
Describing the journey of preparation as a ‘rollercoaster’, Taylor told NPN: “My dad made all the lovely timber shelving, but with the COVID emergency and him being 70 it was like a relay – I would hand him the key in a disinfectant wipe, he would go and work on shelves, then drop key back to me the same way. He is now of course cocooning, but at time of outfitting it wasn’t lockdown here yet.”
I think the hardest part is handling people’s fear – so many customers are confused and afraid, and all me and my staff could do was be calm and reassure them, as well as being as sensible and conscientious as possible to protect both staff and customers
It wasn’t an easy decision to continue with the launch, but ultimately Taylor decided to go forward. “We have been so busy that ultimately I decided to go ahead with it. Getting stock for it was a whole other battle, all of my suppliers were under enormous pressure to keep the shops on their books stocked never mind taking on a new store, and some weren’t able to take me on.
“I think the hardest part is handling people’s fear – so many customers are confused and afraid, and all me and my staff could do was be calm and reassure them, as well as being as sensible and conscientious as possible to protect both staff and customers. I am very lucky in that so far there doesn’t seem to be an outbreak anywhere near either of my stores.”
I have had many messages of support and delight that we are here, and those who have been in have been very positive in their feedback
Another issue Irish health stores are having to contend with is the Government’s recent decision to go ahead with the introduction of 13.5% VAT on health food supplements. “The VAT issue was a bit of a battle alright, but it didn’t in any way affect my decision to open. While we don’t believe VAT should be applied to food supplements, I’ve seen enough changes to know that we will all adjust to it and while it will affect us, ultimately it will even out. I think any affect it may have had on the industry has been totally eclipsed by the coronavirus outbreak.”
Speaking only a week after the opening on 3 April, Taylor told NPN: “So far, it’s been a quiet reception as you would expect being the second week into a lockdown, but I have had many messages of support and delight that we are here, and those who have been in have been very positive in their feedback.”