Retailer Spotlight: Donaghys

The British shoe industry has a proud history of family-run businesses, and we feel a great deal of synergy with our retailers who are also proudly run by many generations of the same family. Donaghys in Banbridge, Northern Ireland is one of such family-run business and here we spoke to Arlene Mulligan about the shop, their history, hard work and passion for quality children’s shoes.

Donaghys store front

About Donaghys

Donaghys is a family-owned department store on Newry Street in the heart of Banbridge in Northern Ireland. Banbridge is a busy shopping town situated 25 miles from Belfast and approximately 75 miles from Dublin. Offering on street and off-street parking to the front and rear of the store, as well as benefiting from great public transport links and a super road network, Donaghys pulls a broad customer base from far and wide.

Donaghys has been in operation for almost 65 years. Established in 1960 by husband-and-wife team, Peter and Eileen Donaghy, the business is now in its third generation. From humble beginnings with a small shoe shop, the business has since gone from strength to strength. It now has departments ranging from footwear and clothing for all the family to an extensive sports and club wear section. With a strong family ethos, Donaghy’s has become one of the largest independent footwear retailers in the UK and Ireland.

Our partnership story

Donaghys has been stocking Start-Rite Shoes for more than 40 years. Many of the first Start-Rite customers all those years ago are still Donaghy’s customers today. Some of Donaghys team have been with the shop throughout the 40 years and while they have seen a lot of changes with the Start-Rite brand, its business values and ethos have remained the same throughout.

First Shoes are an extremely important part of Donaghys children's department. The team is passionate about children's foot health and ensuring correctly fitting footwear from first shoes through each stage of development. ‘First Shoes’ is a growing area of the business, and the team has recently launched an educational marketing campaign called ‘Little Feet, Big Steps’ to support this. The Start-Rite First Shoes collection, with its flexibility in width and sizing, will play a big part in this campaign.

Donaghys boy shoe shopping

Quality in children’s shoes

Donaghys customer relationships are built on trust and a promise of quality footwear, and that is why brands like Start-Rite fit so well into the shop offering. And, as with any established business that has supported its community for many years, Donaghys has served multiple generations of the same family who come to the store to ask for the brand. Donaghys staff love the Start-Rite quality and are reassured that, with the whole and half sizes and multi-width fittings, there will be a shoe to fit every customer, no matter the shape or size of the foot.

Favourite Start-Rite shoe picks

Donaghys stocks a wide range of more than 40 Start-Rite styles, from first shoes up to older school children’s shoes. Back to School is one of their busiest periods with the favourite ‘go-to’ shoe being Brogue Pri & Brogue Snr. The team love the quality and comfort this shoe provides due to its superb fit. In fact, they even call it their ‘firm customer favourite’, and as such, they feel this shoe holds a special place in Donaghys stock room.

Donaghys today

With three generations of Donaghy’s/McVeighs involved in the business over the years, family is very much at the heart of Donaghys ethos. The business now employs more than 60 people, with a loyal team proudly providing employment and quality service in the local community. Arlene, who is the Children's Department Manager, is a long-standing member of the team, with more than 25 years’ experience fitting children’s shoes. Arlene is passionate about her job and enjoys passing on that skill and knowledge to her team. Donaghys also has an extensive online presence with a retail website and very active social media profiles, supporting customers who cannot make it to the store.

Donaghys values are Support, Honesty, One Team and Excellence. It’s very first value, ‘Support’ includes playing a role in the local community, as well as working with many charities. Most recently this endeavour to ‘give back’ to the community saw the team raising more than £3,000 for Autism NI through its Winter Fashion Show and in-store Santa. Women’s Aid Armagh Down is a recipient partner of Donaghy’s clothing and shoe donations and they also support a range of sports clubs and organisations, through Donaghy’s Direct Clubwear and workwear division. Donaghys also have Shoe Aid boxes in the shop.

Donaghys inside store

Through the recently launched ‘Little Feet, Big Steps’ initiative, the team goes out to local Mother and Toddler Groups measuring children’s feet free of charge and giving their carer a card with their foot measurements. This initiative is designed to be an educational marketing campaign which helps to support children’s foot health. It includes expert advice from foot specialists, visits to Mother/Toddler Groups, digital and in-store marketing support.

The team is excited about this campaign because it spreads their passion for children’s foot health and will educate parents and care givers about the benefits of well-fitting shoes in childhood. Together, they hope to reduce the number of people with poor foot health later in life. Above all, the team are proud that this outreach programme, gives the opportunity for every child in the community to benefit from correctly fitted shoes at an early age.

At Start-Rite we work tirelessly to educate on the importance of fitted footwear and the impact footwear has on children’s healthy physical development. It’s fantastic to work with retailers like Donaghys who share our values and who work in collaboration with us to protect future generations of children’s feet.