JEW­ELLERY SHOP SHUTS

JES­SICA FARRY TALKS TO TONY HENRY, OWNER OF HENRY’S JEWELLERS ABOUT HIS DE­CI­SION TO CLOSE THE FAM­ILY BUSI­NESS, WHICH HAS BEEN ON HIGH STREET SINCE THE 1950S.

The Sligo Champion - - FRONT PAGE -

It wasn’t an easy de­ci­sion, but for Tony Henry, it felt like the right one at the right time.

Tony, owner of Henry’s Jewellers on High Street, last week an­nounced that he would be shut­ting shop in the next week or so.

Henry’s Jewellers is a Sligo in­sti­tu­tion and has been trad­ing in the town since 1956.

But, with con­sumers now of­ten more in­clined to shop on­line, busi­ness has been dif­fi­cult for Henry’s.

Tony told The Sligo Cham­pion: “I just feel that the re­tail end of it is very dif­fi­cult for the smaller guy.

“The multi­na­tion­als have gone on­line, peo­ple’s loy­alty is ques­tion­able at times now, I just think for me, it’s the right time to turn the key and walk away with a clear head.”

This was not a de­ci­sion taken lightly. Tony him­self has worked in the jewellers from a very young age. His sib­lings, too, helped their par­ents out from a young age in the shop.

Tony’s brother Gil­bert runs a gold­smith busi­ness be­side the jewellers.

It’s all he knows. But now, he is ready for a fresh chal­lenge, even putting to­gether a CV for the first time.

“In 1956 my Dad started in the shop where my brother Gil­bert is and he will still be trad­ing. My Mum and Dad set it up.

“My­self, my sis­ters Col­lette, Michelle and Yvonne, we were in the shop a lot. The other broth­ers were in and out.

“When I was in board­ing school, Col­lette would have worked here ev­ery­day af­ter school. This is what we did.

“I had to do a CV this week. I’ve never had to do a CV in my life! That’s the way it goes.”

There are a num­ber of rea­sons busi­ness has been dif­fi­cult in the last few years. It hadn’t looked as though it would im­prove any­time soon, which led Tony to his de­ci­sion.

“On­line (shop­ping) cer­tainly hasn’t helped. The con­di­tion of the street (High Street) for the last ten years or so has been hor­ren­dous. I was hold­ing on hop­ing that some­thing would hap­pen but no, it seems to be dead in the wa­ter for the mo­ment.

“You’d have a pe­riod of con­struc­tion when the work hap­pens. I just de­cided, I’ve a 13-year-old daugh­ter and I’d like to see her play a game on a Satur­day like nor­mally.

“I just de­cided I’d get out now if I could get look­ing for work and I’m go­ing to try and get some­thing Mon­day to Fri­day. I’m not sure. I made a mad de­ci­sion, said it, and now there’s no go­ing back. If I had over-thought it I’d still be do­ing it,” he added.

HE looks back fondly on the days when High Street was a con­stant hive of ac­tiv­ity.

Lo­cated right next to the Savoy Cin­ema, the Henry’s al­ways did their best to cap­i­talise on the huge crowds that would be queue­ing to go along to the cin­ema.

“It was buzzing. We had the Savoy here and my Dad wouldn’t put up the shut­ters un­til the show had started be­cause there would be queues go­ing up past the shop and you had the boyfriend and girl­friend, and she’s look­ing in the win­dow of the shop and he’d come in at the week­end and put a de­posit on it.

“Be­cause peo­ple did that back then. We would have had a con­stant flow of peo­ple com­ing in pay­ing stuff off un­til Christ­mas, the drawer was go­ing the whole time with dif­fer­ent de­posits be­ing paid.

“Then we had the secondary school stu­dents, they’d be in and out for grad presents. And when they got their grad presents they were fa­mil­iar with you, you looked af­ter them and you made a lit­tle but you made it of­ten.

“Then you’d have them back for maybe the en­gage­ment ring and then the wed­ding ring. You worked the long game.

“Now it seems to be ev­ery­thing is in­stant, it’s clin­i­cal. I don’t like it.”

Times have changed hugely for busi­nesses. Com­pet­ing with multi­na­tion­als and on­line only com­pa­nies has be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fer­ent.

And Tony feels that small busi­nesses like his own could prob­a­bly do with a bit more as­sis­tance. He says small busi­nesses are not be­ing helped by the Govern­ment.

“We’re not helped (enough) by the govern­ment. I’m told by the couri­ers who de­liver that ev­ery night there’s be­tween eight and 15 cages in the postals, all from China. Free post, which does not make sense.

“If I or­der some­thing as a busi­ness I have to pay ex­pen­sive courier fees. You can or­der your iPhone cover for €4 and it will come from China. “It does not make sense. Un­til some­one has to pay for that, it’s not go­ing to hap­pen for us. There should be some­one there whack­ing duty, cus­tomers don’t want to hear that but it’s the re­al­ity.

“Some­one has to pay for it. Some­one is los­ing out some­where. They have to do some­thing to sup­port the smaller guy. “If a fac­tory was to close here to­mor­row there would be 200 jobs or some­thing gone. There would be war.

“If you tot up how many in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers have closed up in the last three years, there’s a hell of a fac­tory. And not a word.”

An emo­tional Tony ad­mits that the de­ci­sion was tough, but he tries not to think too much about it.

“To­tally. If I don’t think about it too much, it’s fine,” he said.

The re­pairs side of his busy has been easy, but he has in­creas­ingly found him­self fix­ing poorer quality items which cus­tomers have bought on­line. That, he says, is a slap in the face.

“I’ve been very busy at re­pairs, that’s been good. But the re­tail side has fallen away. There’s a lot of ‘I bought this on­line can you take three links out of it, I bought this ring on­line can you fix the stone in it’.

“I of­ten say ‘would you not send it back to where you get it from’ and they’ ll say they couldn’t be both­ered.

“So not only are you not mak­ing the sale but you’re also hav­ing to tweak it, so it’s a slap in your face once again.

“The peo­ple don’t see it. Some of the young peo­ple seem to be cal­lous, to a de­gree. They don’t see an is­sue with it. I just de­cided I don’t want to do that any­more.”

There has been an out­pour­ing of sup­port for Tony since he an­nounced he would be clos­ing. That sup­port re­minds him of why he en­joyed run­ning the busi­ness, but now he’s just look­ing for­ward to the next step.

“It’s been in­cred­i­ble. You’d nearly feel like start­ing up again! I’m re­ally ex­cited for next year. I think for the first month or two my wife has a load of paint­ing and stuff to be done around the house.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to it. I just want to make sure, any­one who has re­pairs in and hasn’t picked them up, I will be here, that’s not an is­sue. I’ ll be here.

“Peo­ple will be con­tacted and there will be a note on the door with con­tact de­tails or per­sonal mes­sage me on Face­book.

“My brother is con­tin­u­ing next door so there will still be a Henry on High Street. He’s kept busy. I’d like to thank my Mum and my sis­ters for all their help, and my fam­ily and of course all of my cus­tomers down through the years.”

THE RE­TAIL SIDE OF THE BUSI­NESS HAS RE­ALLY FALLEN ANY­WAY. ON­LINE SHOP­PING HASN’T HELPED AND NEI­THER HAS THE CON­DI­TION OF HIGH STREET OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS.

Tony Henry stands out­side Henry’s Jewellers on High Street last week af­ter he an­nounced he would be clos­ing the busi­ness in the next cou­ple of weeks.

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