The gorgeous Sharon Conway (right) owner of Glitzi Bitz pictured with Leanne Moore (centre) and model on the night (left) at the launch of the Glitzi Bitz store on Cruises Street, Limerick in 2012. Article by I Love Limerick correspondent Michelle Hogan.
Sharon Conway breezes through the doors of her Glitzi Bitz store on Cruises Street, Limerick and puts a loving arm around her mother.
Though some of us might cringe at the thought of going into business with our mother or daughter, there is no denying Sharon and Fionnuala Conway get on famously.
Who can deny their teamwork when this year they are celebrating 25 years in business together? What an amazing achievement this is for anyone, but for this duo there is something heart-warming and pure about their relationship that oozes into the atmosphere of their store which breathes success at the heart of Limerick and indeed Irish fashion.
Sharon beams with pride and proudly announces: “Twenty five years ago my mother was a bored housewife and she wanted to open a business and she decided that there was no one selling many accessories in Limerick at the time so she opened Glitzi Bitz and never looked back!”
Fionnuala adds, almost like an extension of Sharon’s sentence: “We opened a second shop in Roscrea, then in Longford and now we have eight shops.”
Sharon continues: “We have one big store in Tuam and we decided that we need to put more into it because it was all just jewellery and accessories so we were wondering what would complement that so we started doing clothes there too. We have a beautiful boutique in Tuam selling a number of brands like Superdry, Salsa Jeans, Lila, Calypso, Joe Browne, Mexx, Diva Catwalk, Darcy and much more.”
It is said, when people spend time together they can adjust to finishing each other’s sentences; if this theory is true, it is quite possible that this dynamic duo are telepathically connected.
They bounce off each other as if they have never known anything else.
When asked what is the secret to a successful Glitzi Bitz 25 years in business I get a clean cut response – hard work.
Hard work comes in many shapes and forms but to go into business with your mother or daughter and look back 25 years later with a booming business brings a whole new meaning to the words.
Sharon and Fionnuala agree the success of the business over the years was down to trial and error: “Over the years we did a lot of novelty stuff going back years ago, we catered for hen nights and about six or seven years ago we decided we would just concentrate on weddings. We had so much that we wanted to try to minimize what was in the shop so for weddings now we do fascinators, shoes, handbags, shawls and of course jewellery.”
Sharon puts their success down to determination and a love for what they do as she has adapted her trade over the year from business woman to stylist and back again: “Nowadays everyone is saying they are a personal stylist or a fashion blogger and everyone is doing it at the moment, I am doing it twenty five years now and even longer because I worked in a clothes shop before I started! The business trade has evolved on a personal level and people know when they come into us that we have everything. We find that people come in to us with a new outfit and say that the girl in the shop said to buy a nude bag and shoes because that is all they have in their own shop, but we have a huge range of bright colours which other shops don’t have. We have a cornucopia of colours here in Glitzi Bitz to work with which makes us different and reliable.”
While they both admit adapting to developments in technology over the last 25 years has been difficult the ‘Glitzi Bitz’ Facebook page has still managed to pull in over 2000 “likes”, the ‘Glitzi Bitz Clothes’ page has over 5000 “likes” and the brand has an ever-growing Instagram account under their belt (@Glitzi_Bitz) where they run a number of competitions to keep followers happy. Modest as they seem this powerful duo seem to be keeping ahead of the social media game.
“We are working on our Instagram especially with the clothes because recently Sinead Desmond from Ireland AM uploaded a picture of herself wearing one of our dresses so it is good to get associated. Irish model Madeline Mulqueen was in, she is a really nice girl and anything you put on her looks amazing anyway but we get great feedback when people see stars wearing our clothes.”
Sharon explains: “We regularly appear on TV3 shows such as Xpose, we recently did a makeover for the Glam Squad with Cathy O Connor. I was introduced to Cathy through a friend and we did a slot on television, through that it has just evolved; it is always good to get out there!”
As if taking over TV isn’t what you call ‘moving with the times’, the Glitzi Bitz website is now up and running but it is not going to be a brochure website, everything is very interactive: “This is a family run business, our phone numbers are on our site and we are always available to go out of our way to figure out what exactly a customer wants. My dad brings the stock around, my mam and I buy the stock and my mam works from home. People think my mam is a lady of leisure but they don’t realise the work behind the scenes especially if we are gone travelling we are actually working and often don’t get to see much of the areas we are in, it involves a lot of early mornings and long hours.”
A personal shopping experience is important to Sharon and Fionnuala, as well as staying loyal to their customers down through the years: “We are very price conscious over the last 25 years our prices have nearly stayed the same, we have got nicer bags which are a little bit more expensive but if you see them in relation to other stores they are still at a fraction of the price. We have never really followed fashion trends we just go by colour and what we think looks nice, we try to go for things that are wearable, elegant and sophisticated looking at a reasonable price. We try to cater for everyone young and old, we also do debs, weddings, Christmas gifts, graduations and the races are huge at this time of the year in every one of our shops.”
Sharon proclaims: “It is just as well we get on so famously because otherwise it would be very hard going because we could spend ten days together without really talking to anyone else while we are travelling. You’d want to love it! We are always looking for new ideas and new lines, our new shoes coming in in September are going to have red soles and we have lots of fur collars for the winter so our stock, we think, gets better every season because we know what people are looking for. Our prices stay the same but our quality just gets better and better. We listen to what people are looking for when they come in because not everyone wants to wear high heels, but they still want to look nice. We make things very wearable with a selection for young and old.”
Sharon finishes by saying what she thinks is their key to success: “Dedication and a love for it and a relationship with someone because I couldn’t do it on my own, we have a lot of fun too.”
Having met with these wonderful ladies at the heart of fashion in Ireland, I ask myself – Is there a secret to a successful 25 years in business? Yes, hard work and evidentially an unbreakable, loving bond.
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