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The Challenge: Developing retail leadership and a digital proposition

Horan’s Healthstores was largely a “bricks and mortar” health store retailer in the Munster region until the pandemic hit. High street demand and footfall fell dramatically during this difficult period for the sector and this local retailer had to make decisions that would define their future.

While major retailers experienced an increase in online sales during this period, Horan’s Healthstores had a weak digital offering and online product proposition at that time. Horan’s Healthstores started out originally as a ‘fruit and veg’ shop back in 1988 with a health section at the back of the premises. After developing its first standalone store in Killarney, the business has since grown to 15 health stores across Munster and recently opened a store in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

The challenge faced by Sandra Breen, CEO of Horan’s Healthstores, and her team was how to grow the business in challenging times facing all high street retailers. The health and nutrition sector was also becoming more competitive for Sandra and her team. Sandra wanted to develop the company’s online offering and place an increased focus on visual merchandising within the stores.

We were facing into challenging times and had to look at ways of increasing our online presence and compete with supermarkets and pharmacies who started moving into this market.

Sandra Breen, CEO, Horan's Healthstores

Company Background

Horan’s Healthstores Ltd. was established in 1988 and has grown steadily since. With 16 “bricks and mortar” health stores in the Munster region and two brand new stores in Dun Laoghaire Co. Dublin & Sligo Town. We have both the knowledge and experience to offer you the best products at the best prices. We only use brands which are tried and trusted and are popular with our in store customers.

Company Background
Company Background

The Solution: Access to mentors with sectoral domain level expertise

The company joined the ISME Skillnet Back in Business Mentoring and Coaching programme, which is a tailored programme for all businesses with between 5 and 250 employees. The programme helps SME leaders to address the top challenges facing their business.

According to ISME Skillnet Network Manager Adam Weatherly, “Over 120 small and medium-sized businesses have engaged with this programme over the past two years. Companies gain access to a panel of over 30 business mentors with domain and sector-related expertise.

At the outset we ask all applicants a number of key questions before they set out on their mentoring journey including; What are the three main challenges in your business you are facing right now? How would you like them to be overcome? What outcomes are you looking for? What will success look like? We have been very pleased with the response to this programme”.

Sandra Breen and Edel Kelly, Marketing and eCommerce Manager at Horan’s Healthstores, both signed up as mentees with ISME Skillnet. Sandra’s mentor was a retail sales and visual merchandising expert, with Edel was matched with a digital marketing mentor.

“Our retail mentor helped us to focus on how we could increase our average transaction value. Overall, our shop windows were very weak, and our mentor showed us how important the window is for the business. We’re now in a position where we will be hiring a visual merchandising expert and we’ve expanded into gifting as well,” added Sandra.

Edel found the support of the mentoring invaluable, as she states “What I valued was the easy to pick up practical ways of improving our digital offering through specific campaigns. It’s vital to upskill but I couldn’t dedicate full time to a course as I run a marketing and ecommerce department. The programme was flexible and beneficial and I’m more confident in my role and able to perform better,” she added.

Horans Healthstore

The Outcome: Driving business growth from mentoring engagements

One of the key outcomes of the programme for Edel was the impact the mentoring had on the company’s online sales.

“Now over 60% of our online sales are coming through the Google campaigns from locations where we have physical healthstore and we are targeting counties and towns where we didn’t have a high street presence. The expertise we have gained saves us money and it helped us establish international markets with sales now coming in now from the US, EU and beyond.” Edel Kelly, Marketing and eCommerce Manager at Horan’s Healthstores”

Sandra outlined the company will continue to invest in developing its workforce through ISME Skillnet and other talent development initiatives from Skillnet Ireland.

Building on the continued success of this Back In Business Mentoring and Coaching programme ISME Skillnet, in partnership with Skillnet Ireland, will also be offering dedicated follow-on programmes to support SME owners and managers across a wide range of sectors.

About ISME Skillnet
About ISME Skillnet

About ISME Skillnet

ISME Skillnet is a multi sector business network for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). Network companies work collaboratively to respond locally to skills needs within their businesses. The network supports regional development by helping local businesses to arrive at shared local solutions that are more accessible, more affordable and ultimately, more effective at meeting their needs. The network addresses both technical and non-technical skills needs across multiple sectors.

  • Contact Person: Adam Weatherley
  • Email:
  • Tel: 01 6622755
Find a Skillnet Business Network

Find a Skillnet Business Network

Find a Skillnet Business Network