Industry View: Isabel Haley, NACTA & ANAM
Isabel Haley is the Executive Director of the North American Celtic Trade Association and a co-founder of the ANAM craft marketplace. We spoke to Haley about the importance of Showcase on her calender, the quality of the Irish craft and design industry and how Irish producers are well placed to capitalise on changing consumer trends.
Isabel Haley, Executive Director of NACTA and co-founder of the ANAM craft marketplace
Showcase is well worth the trip for international buyers
While no longer a buyer but rather a promoter of Showcase, it’s really impossible to overstate how important Showcase is for the industry. That’s why I encourage US and Canadian buyers to make the journey. It’s well worth the trip to see the Irish crafters presenting their best of the best – new products that they’ve been working on during the COVID downtime as well as the iconic best-sellers we all know and love. Being there in person is such an opportunity to truly discover not just the products but the people, the inspiration and story behind them. It’s incredible.
The strong community at Showcase Ireland makes it stand out as a special event
You’ll have to forgive a little bias on my part when I say no one puts on a show the way the Irish do. The energy, the creativity, and most of all, the strong community really makes Showcase stand out as a special event. There are larger shows, there are more exclusive shows, but Showcase is the trade fair that does the best job presenting the Irish craft industry in all of its glory.
Face-to-face conversations help to build relationships
Because I’m the Executive Director of NACTA – the North American Celtic Trade Association – Showcase is a very busy time for me. Making sure that the relationships between Irish makers and American buyers is strong and healthy is so much easier when you can have meaningful face-to-face conversations with people. Discovering who’s new to the market, and what established brands are currently excited about, is of huge importance back home. I’m very interested in learning how things are going for Irish makers, and what we can do to support them in their quest for success and broader visibility. And of course, it’s a lot of fun being with everyone.
The Poolbeg Lighthouse on Dublin's South Wall
Excited to be back
I'll be visiting Showcase with bells on! It will be wonderful to see everyone back on the trading floor in Dublin.
Dublin's great restaurant and the pub scene adds to the trade show experience of Dublin
Dublin is home for me so it’s always great to be home. Walkability to the many great pubs and restaurants close by, along with accessibility to the city centre, is key to checking all the boxes for a full trade show experience.
Authenticity matters more than ever before. People are burned out on fake news and misrepresentation wherever they encounter it. They want the real deal – genuine goods, made by true artisans, in the countries they purport to be from. Truth in origin matters a lot now.
Conscious consumerism is on the rise
In terms of a trend, we should talk about conscious consumerism. There are different economic and social pressures at play here that encourage buyers to be much more mindful and intentional when it comes to choosing what they buy, where they buy it and who they buy it from. Clearly, that’s going to be a benefit for the Irish industry.
Foot traffic in brick-and-mortar retail stores in the States is very strong
As a community we represent the best of Irish craft
There is no doubt that Irish design and craft is well respected internationally. We’re renowned for being creative, talented people. The issue is one of visibility. Because we’re a small nation and our numbers are relatively small, there’s a real danger that the genuine, authentic Irish maker is crowded out of the market by mass production facilities in other countries that make cheaper, inferior goods in an Irish style. This is a challenge we can only address working together. It’s impossible for any one maker to thrive in these conditions. As a community, however, we represent the best of Irish craft. That’s noteworthy, remarkable, and when presented in the right light, a beautiful alternative to the knock offs and copycats.
Bricks and mortar shopping performing strongly in the US
We’re seeing more online shopping, of course, but I have to tell you, foot traffic in brick-and-mortar retail stores in the States is very strong. If anything, the pandemic has made the experience of in-person shopping more important and precious to the consumer. That’s why I am so passionate about getting the best Irish goods represented in Irish stores, gift stores and other retail outlets coast to coast. This is truly the moment to shine.