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A unique and personalised shopping experience the key to Hood and Co’s longevity

26 November 2018

At a time when many long established local independent department stores have had to close their doors, a family run business in Newtownstewart are bucking the trend.

Situated on the Main Street on the County Tyrone town, Hood and Co are one of Ireland’s oldest departments stores, serving North West shoppers for over a century and managed by the well known Dillon family for the last 38 years.

A huge spike in internet shopping and the growth of multinational retailers has hit independent stores worldwide but an acute attention to individual customer needs and a willingness to adapt to change means there is still a demand for the personal touch that Hood and Co offer.

“Our slogan is ‘You supply the room, we supply the rest’,” explained Caroline Dillon who jointly owns the store with her brother Robert and their father Houston Dillon who still leads their management team at the age of 86. “We are an interiors shop, basically everything inside your home can be provided by us.

“My father moved to Canada in his younger years having had enough of farming, he ended up in a furniture shop and that’s where he got the bug. 

“He came back home for love and that’s when he found Hoods and here we are 38 years later.

“We are proud to say that it’s a family business encompassing our extended family of loyal employees, some of whom are here longer than I have.

“My brother Robert has been at the reigns a lot longer than me, he is from a business background whereas my background is in art, so, through teamwork, collaboration on projects, appreciation of individual qualities and the odd family spat it works.”

Among the personal services offered at the store is a bespoke interior design service where computer generated graphics are used to help work with customers to set up the home of their dreams.

Their experienced and resourceful furniture and flooring department boast an encyclopaedic knowledge of suppliers that means they can source anything a customer wants for their home.  

“Many years of hard work and dedication have helped keep us current,” Caroline continued. “Listening to our customers and being inspired to provide them with great quality and service is really important to us.

“I have the interior design department along with Cindy, it is steady and as with any business, can be challenging. 

“As an independent business we like to put a personal twist on all our jobs and spending the time on designing a look specifically for each client is very important to us.”

“Robert and Nigel in the furniture and flooring department have over 60 years of experience between them and pride themselves on being able to source almost anything.

“They supply furniture and flooring for every lifestyle and with the help of Robbie and the team have it delivered and fitted.

“They can also re-upholster existing pieces to suit every taste and delight in the satisfaction of seeing an old and unused item brought back to life.”

Adapting to the needs of customers and to changes in the performance of the business has been equally crucial and the staff at Hood and Co have had to be flexible as the management tweaked and diversified their offering.

“Our Sip Coffee Shop is relatively new, we just opened it two years ago and it is going strong,” she added. 

“It is a real asset and creates a good buzz right in the heart of the shop, it has become a meeting place for locals and visitors alike.

“It comes complete with entertainment from Ronan who runs it, he used to run our menswear which we now no longer stock and through this period of diversification it was obvious that we couldn’t lose Ronan so we made use of his talents, one of which is his long standing passion for food and cooking.”

Central to the customer experience at Hood and Co is the pleasing appearance of the store’s interior and Caroline takes personal interest in the merchandising of the store.

“I am very passionate about the presentation of the interior of our store,” she continued. “I love doing shop displays alongside Claire, who runs the giftware department and who has an exceptional talent for displaying and window dressing. 

“My passion for display has increased since the complete renovations were carried out in 2008 and it’s not unusual to find me setting out shop floor displays with Claire when I need a break from the interior design department - nothing is more relaxing.

“It is normally the two of us who work on them but it’s all hands on deck to prepare our Christmas displays, we close for two days and all members of staff take on new roles to ensure we can complete them in time, even the girls in the office, Shirley and Eileen get new roles as does Ronan from Sip our Coffee Shop – his height comes in really handy!

“Christmas is the busiest period of the year for us but we enjoy helping our customers old and new to prepare for the holiday season and choose unique gifts for their loved ones.

“We would like to thank all our loyal customers for their continued support and welcome all new customers. 

“The customers are the life blood of our wee business.”

For more details about how Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business Support, Tourism & Rural Development teams can help existing, start up and prospective businesses go to http://www.derrystrabane.com/businesssupport and http://www.derrystrabane.com/RBIS.