My Business Story
John Christopher Treacy
Hello my name is John Christopher Treacy, I own JCT Images Ireland and Irish Cards. These are two different parts of my business, all my own designs. JCT Images Ireland is my Digital Art, Photography and Prints section and Irish Cards is dedicated to Irish Greeting Cards.
I have put together a team of people to script, structure and film a documentary on the ruthless replacement of Irish made products in the Irish Market Place. In particular from my perspective as an Artist, Irish Greeting Cards and Irish Art Pieces in shops or more to the point the lack of Irish Greeting Cards and Art Piece in shops in Ireland.
Due to lockdown this may take quite a while to film so rather than wait until it is finished I have decided to bring this to your attention online and by way of flyers. I feel this story needs to be told sooner rather than later. Information from managers and former managers in shops tell us that it is not just artists but numerous small businesses that are suffering this fate of being locked out of shops.
To put my reason for filming this documentary into perspective I am telling you some of my own story in business and what I have experienced in my profession.
In Feb 2014 I was out of work, and began to pursue my artistic talents, music, digital design. Simultaneously I was trying to find a St Patrick’s Day card with a photo of a Cork landscape to send to a friend of mine from Cork, living in New York. To my surprise I could not find a photo of Cork on a St Patrick’s Day Card anywhere in Cork. I must have tried twenty different shops. Reading the backs of the St Patrick’s Day cards on the shelves in most of the shops, the cards were from China.
I couldn’t believe there was no Irish designed cards in these shops in Cork. So I decided I would design a few St Patrick’s Day cards myself to see would the shops sell them. So after many attempts and the recycle bin full, I eventually designed a few cards I was happy with. Just a couple of shops stocked them but I sold most of them door to door. I have worked at sales for many years and hardened to sales rejection but this was uncanny when I approached some shop owners.
Some were extremely rude and pointed to all the Chinese cards they had on their shelves and just didn’t want to know about Irish designed cards. This was certainly a rude awakening for me.
However, as the years progressed I was to meet some amazing shop owners who supported my small business and I am so grateful. They are in my eyes proud Irish people who now stock local Irish cards and have done so for years. Thank you so much.
But this one event was to take me on an unbelievable, eye opening, journey that I am still on today nearly seven years later. I never realised how bad the situation had become in shops in Ireland, my research has shown that nearly all greeting and post cards in shops now are being imported into Ireland and the local artists and cards designers are kept out on the street.
When I started off the business I approached the Local Enterprise Board
Like a lot of people starting off in business in my naivety I approached the Cork Local Enterprise Board (LEO) with my great idea to supply my local cards to shops in Cork. I had read and heard on TV how (LEO) would support local business startups. I explained to them that I really believed, as I do today, nearly seven years later, that people in Cork and in every county in Ireland should have the choice to buy premium quality cards defining Ireland and its localities. These cards should be sold as well to give people a choice and to have fair trade, as well as, wall to wall cheap cards made in China that have no relationship or identity to our country or culture. I would like to comment here on the way LEO treated me but I suppose it is better kept to myself. However, we are going to look for the data in relation to where all the funding has gone from LEO? This was public money, who got the money and why have we ended up in this situation if LEO was supporting local businesses?
My story has actually two different sides to it
My Digital Art and Exhibitions and being locked out of
Art Galleries all over Ireland.
The other part is about my Greeting Cards.
I am going to try and keep this as short as possible.
During the last seven years in this business I have come across some very despicable things that were done to me as a card supplier in some of these shops.
Rather than go on a long history of events I am going to tell you just a few:
1. I had one of my branded card stands in a shop in Co Cork. A few weeks before Christmas 2020, I went to replenish the card stand with a view to putting local Christmas Cards on the stand. I walked into the shop and couldn’t find the stand, eventually, the manager approached me and told me my stand had been removed, it was put into the stores a couple of weeks before, stock and all, by the area manager. My card stand had been replace by a UK owned company franchising in Ireland and all the Christmas Cards on the stand were now to the best to my knowledge from China. Even though my stand had all my contact details on it, I was not contacted. My stand with all my stock, which was on sale or return, was put into the store and left there for weeks and no one had even the decency to contact to me. This is a shocking way to treat an Irish business.
2. My cards were on a shared stand in a shop and the owner of the shop told me he was the owner of the stand. On two occasions, the most recent, Jan 2021, when I went back to replenish the cards the other company sharing the stand had been in the shop, taken my cards off the stand and hidden them. They had actually taken my cards off the stand and hidden them under other products. Never told me or the owner of the shop. I have since removed my cards from that shop as I would not allow myself or my business to be treated this way. This is absolutely ruthless greed to get small local businesses out of these shops.
3. I cannot get a unit in a shopping centre in Cork. Even though I am one of the few companies in Cork selling local cards I cannot get a unit in a shopping centre. I rang a shopping centre one day to try and get a temporary unit for a couple of months up to Christmas. He gave me a price for the unit not mentioning what I was selling. When I contacted him later and told him I was selling Greeting Cards the unit price trebled. I have made numerous attempt to get a unit and I get no replies from emails or phone calls. But most of the stores in the centres can sell cards all day long but they are not Irish cards.
The €1.00 Greeting Cards Stands:
I wonder did people ever wonder about these stands. We have recently started to question why these stands started to appear in shops in Ireland. To put them into perspective the cards are coming into the shops, at 35 cent a card to the shop keepers. That would mean a profit of around 10 cent a card to the person suppling the cards. Bringing everything into consideration, supplying a stand which costs in the region of €130.00 and paying the costs associated with restocking the stand. (These are only estimate costs at the moment).
If there was fifty cards a week being sold off the stand, (that would be a lot, unless it was an extremely busy shop) in monitory terms it would mean the stand would be making a profit of only €5.00 a week. It would take 26 weeks, six months selling cards in the shop to pay for the cost of the stand. It is not sustainable to have a card stand in a shop making that little profit, €5.00 every week. So why are they there? If it’s not to make profit. Is it there to keep out the local artist, card suppliers? Maybe to reduce the local sellers sales outlets to put them out of business.
Managers and x managers tell us that greeting cards suppliers are approaching shops and offering large quantities of free cards or money credit for exclusive contracts. If this is the case, it is unfair trading practices and may well be illegal. “The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’ have been contaced and are in communictions now on the matter. Billions that could have been spent here in Ireland to support Irish businesses have been spent outside of Ireland to import these foreign cards and other products. This has an enormous cost to Ireland, Irish businesses and our culture.
Considering 1921, 100 years ago this year and remembering all the great people including my own father who fought and gave their lives for us, this is shocking. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would live in this country where people who now own shops here would actually do this to the local artists and local customers with such disrespect for our Irish Culture on the market shelves of Ireland.
So what responsibility does a person have trading in Ireland today, politically, socially, culturally, economically. Can you just open a shop and fill it with products from anywhere in the world, lock out all the local suppliers and get a Guaranteed Irish Brand. Are Irish brands and suppliers of those brands like me and other small businesses, useless now and meaningless, to be treated like this?
JCT Images Ireland
I was one of five people doing a presentation of my Digital Art in a Crawford Art Building in 2019 and when the meeting ended we realised that we were in fact being locked out of galleries all over Ireland.
I don’t want to go on any more here but I would like to ask you this: The next time you enter your local shop could you ask them, are they supporting our local artists?
Have a look on their Greeting Card Shelves or have a look at the Art On the Walls.
The certainly have no problem taking money from the local customers.
I hope this has opened your eyes as to what is going on in
some shops in Ireland.
Would this be tolerated in any other country?
Please support our local Artists.
A lobbying voice for artists in Ireland.
I couldn’t leave this without saying a special thanks
to the people who buy my cards and prints
A VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO YOU
John Christopher Treacy