Shaws, Tralee

Text by Georgina Downes, Tralee Chamber Alliance

Photography by Johanna Simon, Tralee Chamber Alliance

It may not seem like it, but Shaws has been in Tralee for just 22 years, which makes it younger than Fungi, but in that time, this Irish-owned department store has secured its place as one of the town’s best-loved shopping destinations.

Anna Bunyan, the store’s longest serving employee, remembers the official opening day, back in 1997, when Dick Spring cut the ceremonial ribbon.

“There was huge excitement, a real buzz around the place,” Anna says, casting her mind back to her first day on the job. “People came from all over Kerry just to be the first to shop here.” She still loves coming to work. “Shaws is a fantastic company. I really enjoy my job. Retirement, that’s when I’ll go.” She laughs.

But what sort of shopper comes to Shaws and what exactly do they buy? Manager Mike Quinn answers without hesitation. “The more discerning customer and people who want an exceptionally friendly service.”

“Homeware is our biggest seller,” he tells me, “Particularly lamps, but clothes feature prominently too.” In fact, Mike is looking dapper today, decked head to toe in Springfield, a Spanish label popular with younger men and exclusive to Shaws. He shrugs modestly when I point this out. “Perk of the job,” he smiles.


His office overlooks the old Denny site. The factory is flattened now and all that remains it the towering, red-brick chimney, rising out of the rubble, a solitary reminder of bygone days when much of Tralee’s prosperity relied on bacon. “Hopefully they’ll do something innovative with the site, something that will bring more people to town,” Mike says.

Mike is a Limerick native but he transferred to Kerry following a promotion. What is the best thing about working in Tralee, I ask. He thinks for a moment, spoilt for choice, apparently.. “Being so close to the beach and having a dip in the sea after work,” he says finally. “Nothing like it.”

But for many Kerry woman, it’s the Shaws lingerie department that holds a special place in their hearts. This was where they came for that all-important, first bra fitting. Ayesha Day from woman’s ware,  knows a thing or two about measuring for the perfect fit.

“An ill-fitting bra can affect your posture” she warns. My shoulders shift automatically, gauging my own straps.  “We go on special training courses with Triumph and Fantasy so we know how to measure all different shapes and sizes.” Ayesha is also an expert in fitting mastectomy bras. Shaws stock the Anita, a specialised bra for woman who have undergone surgery. This professional, discrete and very personal service has no equal in the town.

I spot a woman carrying a  bag. Has she just purchased an item? She has. Her name is Mary. Why do you shop in Shaws, I ask.  “Because the staff here are brilliant,” she answers. “So friendly, so knowledgeable, why would you go anywhere else?” She waves her hand around the store, taking in all it has to offer. I agree, Mary, why indeed.

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