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Lucy’s craft for good retailing

Last update - Thursday, April 12, 2007, 00:00 By Metro Éireann

 {mosimage} Originally from Kenya, Lucy Nyaga first arrived in Ireland ten years ago. She came to study law, and found romance, marrying her lecturer David Ewins. They now have two children and live in Rush, north County Dublin. Nyaga realised early on that law might not be the route to riches, and discovered that she had a talent for commerce.

“While I was studying I was doing a bit of import of crafts from Africa. I started with really small things like earrings and necklaces. I was selling to other shops and it started to take off. I made a decision that business was the way forward for me, that it could be more lucrative than law.” Nyaga decided to establish her own shop, and secured a good location. The popular Safari Crafts is situated at 29 Liffey Street in Dublin. An incredibly busy thoroughfare, Liffey Street has become a prime gateway between north and south of the River Liffey. “I do pay for the privilege,” says Nyaga, “the rent and rates on this place are massive and we have just had a rent review, so it’s is not cheap by any means.

Nyaga sources her stock mostly from Kenya. Safari Crafts sells jewellery boxes, bags, clothing, carvings in wood and stone, masks, pictures ornaments, chess sets, drums and some of the best African music you will hear in Ireland. “I know every corner of Kenya and know where to go to get things. There is a lot of travel involved when I am buying, but the novelty of travel can wear out, especially now that I have two small children. Travel takes so much of my time, it can be wearying. Another problem is that I deal with small producers and sometimes there can be problems with delivery or deadlines…Generally my producers are very good, just sometimes it can be frustrating and then we become more wary,” says Nyaga. “Occasionally we would have an issue with quality, it can be difficult to manage quality control after the goods have already been shipped, but it’s all part of running the business,” adds Nyaga. There is no excise duty to be paid on goods imported from a developing country, according to Nyaga, but the business is still liable to pay the VAT.

Nyaga says that trying to predict trends is a big issue for anyone involved in the retail business: “Just because I like something does not mean that it will sell well. It is hard to say what items will be good sellers. Some goods are trial and error. We try out commodities for a little while and gauge the interest from customers and then get some more. At the moment our biggest sellers are the sculptures.” Safari Craft customers are not necessarily African; many are Irish and most are tourists. Safari Crafts has also launched its new website and as it’s only two weeks old, it is too early yet to measure the response.

When Nyaga arrived in Ireland ten years ago she was one of a small minority. Immigrants are now more commonplace and that has increased competition too. “When I came first I was seen as different in the best sense, and was treated very well. Now that there are more of us I think it is harder, there are more problems as we make our presence felt.” The sort of problems Nyaga refers to are racist incidents that have occurred to her at the shop. “Because of our busy location there’s bound to be the occasional person who will become a nuisance,” she explains. “Although most shops will experience this type of behaviour we have had particular trouble when we try to deal with it. We are not a shopping centre with security guards.”

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