retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The pandemic has forced many businesses to pivot.

Including, it seems, a 20-year-old Irish college student who runs a sneaker cleaning business.

The Irish Times has the story of "Dublin college student Kevin Owens … who started a sneaker cleaning business as a school transition year project, (and) says he has never been busier due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also as more people turn towards 'upcycling'.

"The north Dublin student operates his business, Sneaker Cleaner, from an office space on Harcourt Street, with Grafton Cleaners on South William Street operating as a drop-off and pick-up location for the runners."

The Times notes that when Owens started his business, he marketed it via Instagram, picked up sneakers during school and then would store them in his locker before taking them home to clean them.  It was all cash-and-carry.

But the pandemic, which has hit Ireland hard, forced some changes.  He opened a workspace (unlike other people who started working from home), set up a website, established a pick-up hub, and started taking credit cards.

Owens tells the Times, "The whole idea of sustainability has definitely taken off. We’re taking an old pair of shoes and making them brand new again. You see a lot of really beat-up Gucci shoes coming in and even Air Force 1’s, which are notorious for getting creases after a few wears … People can spend €35 and they’re like a brand new pair of shoes again. We box them up and put the paper on them. I think a lot of people want to support Irish now or support local, because it’s very hard to shop for shoes at the moment."

If I were a retailer doing business in Ireland, I'd be reaching out to Kevin Owens, who seems to embody the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that can differentiate one business from another.  His gumption is an Eye-Opener.