As a nation, we all have a long-running love affair with Penneys, whether it's for the pre-holiday dash, you're running low on socks, or in dire need of an umbrella on a wet Summers day. Since the first shop opened in 1969 by Arthur Ryan and Penneys has rarely let us down writes Tara Maher.
RTÉ debuted a new docuseries last Tuesday night, giving viewers behind-the-scenes access to one of Ireland's biggest and most loved retailers. In the first episode, we learn that Mary Street is the company's beating heart, which now operates more than 430 stores across 16 countries.
In episode one, we met John McCormack, a larger-than-life character; he has been working within the company since 2013, when he began working as a Senior Womens Designer in Womenswear before climbing up the ladder to his current position, Global Concept & Fashion Trend Lead.
essentially, his job is to predict the upcoming fashion trends. Fashion is a complex industry, trends are constantly evolving, and he and his team constantly need to be one step ahead; as he described it, "I used to say our job is to join the dots – now our job is to find the dots".
We were also introduced to Damien O'Neill. Like John, Damien worked his way to the top of his field within the company. Damien visited our local store on Patrick Street and lamented the cramped premise that soon won't be fit for purpose much longer. The documentary showed the hardships our city has endured over the years. Several shots pan to the "For Let" signs dotted across the city, and who could forget Debenhams's closure, which has left a massive premise vacant. All hope is not lost, though; the episode closes with the announcement that they have received planning permission to expand their Cork City store.
Julie Seymour, 25, from Shanbally, celebrated her two-year work-adversary as a trainee fashion buyer in the blouse section at Primark;- "Primark is drilled into us in the office," she apologised - HQ in Arthur Ryan House in Dublin., the day after the documentary premiered.
Julie graduated from MTU in 2021 with a degree in Marketing. From a very young age, Julie wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry. While studying at MTU, she pursued various internships, including social media marketing, creative design, and as a fashion stylist. "These internships gave me an amazing insight on what it's like to work in the industry, and I really think this helped with my application to Primark, alongside my own retail experience, which I gained during my college years."
"My role involves a variety of different things, from admin work to design meetings, building relationships with suppliers to product and sample management, developing products to Influencer collabs, and so much more." No two days are the same in HQ. Each week begins with analysing the previous week's trade and sales. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Julie partakes in fitting sessions, where they fit upcoming styles on models and make any necessary changes to ensure the garments fit perfectly for customers. "We have sign-off meetings where we sign off our ranges once a month."
Working in fashion, it is also essential to keep an eye on competitors and be aware of any upcoming trends. "There's always something exciting happening, and you're always kept on your toes."
Julie loves seeing a product come to life, "from the initial design stages to seeing it on the shop floor and everything in between. We love seeing people wear our styles on social media and the sales reactions. It's all really exciting!"
She is loving her current role and is hoping to move up the ladder and become an assistant buyer or buyer one day. “The progression in the company is great, and there are lots of opportunities” she revealed. She excited for everyone to their Spring/Summer 24 ranges and she hopes everyone loves it as much as she does. “There are lots of new stores opening this year and I am so excited to see the new Patrick Street store once it’s renovated and reopened.”
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