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Avoca – And Now the End is Near and so I face the final Question


We will consider Avoca in the context of building an effective marketing plan using the six elements of the PR Smith’s SOSTAC® Planning System.  Each stage of SOSTAC® is interlinked and according to Chaffey and Smith[2] (E-Marketing Excellence 2013 Pg. 3) each stage is not discrete but there may be some overlap during each stage of planning and previous stages may be revisited and refined.  The acronym SOSTAC® stands for Situation Analysis, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Action and Control.

Situation – where are we now?

Avoca redesigned its website less than a year ago and has further enhanced its e-commerce capability focusing on its large online sales from an international customer base, indeed it has been to the forefront of its competitors in embracing the e-commerce possibilities. The website itself links to a Facebook account, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+. The LinkedIn page is used to advise of changes in-store or online (as an example it announced 9 months ago that it had just revamped its website and online store with a new responsive design framework to optimise its performance across desktop and mobile devices, recognising that more of their customers are interacting with Avoca on their smartphones and tablets). There was no easy access to subscribe to an online Newsletter which may be an opportunity missed by Avoca, but a solution to which is provided for in our two suggested business innovations.


Objectives – where do we want to get to?

As a brand, Avoca is uniquely positioned in the Irish market to target its key customer, females in the 25-70 age range, with its outlets in key areas, however, the Company should consider other sites that open up the Avoca experience to other parts of Ireland and to consider extending the customer experience for its keycustomer to grow its sales. Avoca will also need to consider other customer segments to grow its business in Ireland.  Internationally, Avoca will need to continue to scan its international environment to assess its competitors and respond quickly to changes that will surely be demanded by the growing internet marketing arena.

Strategy – how are we going to get there – overview?

Avoca is a sector leader in Ireland and is one of many internationally.  The focus will be on growing the company in Ireland, through new sites whilst staying ahead of its international competitors. Additionally, if Avoca becomes synonymous with Artisan foods and services both in Ireland and internationally, it will see exponential growth in the coming years.

Tactics – how are we going to get there – detail?

Avoca has the opportunity to put its name to a larger range of Artisan products. In addition Avoca should consider sponsoring some local charities or causes focused on environmental issues.  Implementing the proposed business innovations of a Magalogue and Consultancy service for Artisans would significantly raise the profile of Avoca to those currently unaware of the brand, after which the Hierarchy of Effects Model[3] could translate that awareness into knowledge of the brand, liking and preference for the products offered by Avoca and translate this into an intention to buy and ultimately a purchase by new customers.

Action – who is going to do what and when?

Avoca may need to identify a specific budget to target its online market, to have this manned permanently, for ready replies to Twitter content and to other online marketing methods of communication of its brand. A larger budget may need to be considered to develop the Artisan consultancy concept, after detailed market research.

Control – how can we control, measure and develop the process?

Measurement of the success of the strategies can be measured by an increase in sales, by using daily or weekly website analytics to see trends from its website, to see click through rates and rate of impressions and other metrics to extend the customer experience on the Avoca website and once information is garnered from this source to monitor this weekly or monthly thereafter.



Smith, PR (2011) SOSTAC® Guide To Writing The Perfect Plan (eBook) published by

PR Smith’s SOSTAC® is a registered trade mark of PR Smith

[1]Smith P. R. The SOSTAC® Guide – to writing the perfect marketing plan [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 May 2014].

[2]Chaffey. D, Smith, P.R. 2013. Emarketing Excellence. 4th ed. Pg. 3. London & New York: Routledge

[3] The Hierarchy of Effects Model was created in 1961 by Robert J Lavidge and Gary A Steiner. This marketing communication model, suggests that there are six steps from viewing a product advertisement (advert) to product purchase. The job of the advertiser is to encourage the customer to go through the six steps and purchase the product.






Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo – who knows which way we’ll go !

How to apply Stanford D process to our newest assignment? to come up with two innovative products or services that may have some commercial application, using the Stanford D Bootcamp Bootleg{1}, coming up with some ideas, regardless of how ridiculous they may be (blue sky thinking).
Given the comings and goings of the group in the brainstorm week, the time was limited and so sometimes was done with a brief 5 or 10 minute quick meeting. Sometimes with one or two of the team, or other times with 2 or 3 of the team and then discussing with other members of the team over the phone and taking some of the ideas further at that point, it was a bit fractured to be sure, maybe even a bit like real life brainstorming might be in the corporate world… And then we welcomed a new member to the team.
Applying the Steps in a Design Thinking Process{2}, we had already undertaken the secondary research of the retail sector and of Avoca itself in order to understand the area, we had also undertaken some primary research in-store at Rathcoole to observe the business in action. In typical Stanford D, we defined some problems facing Avoca and then we were armed with the core skills to apply the Stanford D method.
We ideated several possible ideas including An Artisan Retail Consultancy, Catalogue Concept, Merger and Acquisitions, Website Localization and Retargeting, Expansion into Events and Leisure, Domestic and International Expansion, Artisan Foods Partnerships, Expanding In-Store Licensing, Shared Space Community Projects, Franchising Expansion Opportunity, Fine Dining Experience, Brand Licensing.
We took on board each team members point of view on each of the suggestions and they were all put the Stanford D process and it was good to see the dynamics of the group work well, expanding on each other’s ideas, until we had fleshed out several of the suggestions to a fair degree and then looked at the realistic viability of these to eventually whittle it down to two ideas.
Founders Syndrome really was not an issue as the basic idea was built upon by other members of the team to the point that who had the first idea and who built on it was never important, only enjoying the process and having a laugh about some of the ideas as they were described in vivid colour, with large demonstrative arms, outstretched to make a point about some esoteric layout, it was a bit like being a kid let loose in a Sweet Shop.
With the decision made on the two winners, we got down to work on building prototypes for these, dividing up the tasks most democratically, with strict deadlines (for this read, advisory deadlines!!) and we thought we may even put our two prototypes through several steps in the StageGate process{3} to develop further .
On the next stage, more to come later, meanwhile I am off to lubricate my creative juices with some fermentedgrapes…

1. Bootcamp Bootleg 2011. [ONLINE]. Available from: [Accessed 8 May 2014].

2. Steps in a Design Thinking Process. 2014. Steps in a Design Thinking Process. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 8 May 2014]

3. Cooper, R.G. (3 May 2008). “The Stage-Gate Idea-to-Launch Process–Update, What’s New and NexGen Systems,”. Journal of Product Innovation Management. 25 (3), 213-232.

Avoca Experience

Our team visited the Avoca store to get a feel for the type of products on sale and for the “experience”. The Rathcoole store, on the edge of the N7 has a very large footfall, in particular, to its Cafe, from the early morning coffee takeout, coffee morning meeting or large lunch time contingent. Although the temperature of the coffee is far too tepid for me! The size of the slices of cream-filled roulades, heart-stopping cheesecake to the home baked cookies are a sight to behold.
I met with the pasty and cake chef replenishing the products and could not resist asking about the large portions and if there was a lot of waste in this area, it appears not.
I could not help but notice that the pricing of products was a tad vague (a bugbear of mine on the lines of “how can I make a fully informed choice, if I am not privy to the full information at the point of purchase”) again, when I asked about that, I got a “I know, I have mentioned that too but thems is not listening, shucks” (SIC) response.
The paint colours on the wall, reminiscent of an Anita Schreve book based in a coastal town in the Hamptons, USA, the elaborate light decoration made from cups and saucers of various size and design, reminiscent of a visit from the relatives and the cup of the in the good china, sometimes of varying designs, indeed a similar evocation as that offered when viewing the reasonably new business of (
In the food emporium, with well stacked shelves of fresh, organic or carefully chosen products, I met with a supplier of Apple sauces (Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Orchards, Kilkenny) and she mentioned that they had ad forum (Bia Beag) for artisans to meet and hear stories from other artisans (one is actually on tomorrow Sat 5th April at 6pm in their Orchard ( They meet on a quarterly basis to promote other artisans foods. An idea forms….[1]

[1] Bootcamp Bootleg 2011. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 6 April 2014].

Avoca now and looking forward

Avoca will need to continuously scan their external environment and to be aware of external forces which may impact on the business and a brief overview of the PESTLE analysis addresses some of these issues. In particular, from a political perspective, the tax rates as low as 9% for services remains low in order to encourage greater spending by Irish consumers and tourists, according to Transport and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar[1]. Socially, there has been a growth in interest in artisan foods and Irish brands and this has impacted positively for Avoca, with potential for exponential growth in this area. The economic landscape suggests evidence of positive domestic consumer sentiment whilst technologically, there has been considerable growth of online sales across the sector, online shopping for food and groceries has grown from 3% in 2008 to 6% in 2012[2]. However, there are legal challenges for the company regarding upward only rent reviews and environmentally, changing weather may impact the sale of goods in certain areas of the business.


Looking briefly at the Porters 5 forces, and taking cognisance of the fact that Avoca is a market leader in the sector, with strong profitability and strong brand identity.  New entrants to the market would likely be hampered by high capital requirements and with challenges to brand recognition and a long lead in time to build an alternative brand.   Purchasers from Avoca, in the ABC1 group, are a limited group and the Company will need to extend their marketing pull to other age groups or to the male population, which are not generally a focus for the Company.  With regard to suppliers, the Company will need to keep a close eye on suppliers scalability and on supply chain consistency.  There would appear to be only a slight impact on product alternatives from cheaper sources and indeed from recent surveys carried out in regard to the Avoca brand, its key demographic customer has indicated that quality over cost is their main driver.













[1] Maintaining 9% tax rate could create 5,000 jobs in restaurant sector | Irish Examiner. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 8 March 2014]


[2] Eurostat [ONLINE] available at [Accesses 6 March 2014]

Sectoral Analysis of Avoca Handweavers -Part 3 – [3 Part Series]

Blogpost Part 3 covers the main findings derived from the analysis, how they may impact Avoca’s business and what steps they need to consider in order to meet these challenges into the future.   

Blogpost Part 1 gives a high level overview of the sectoral analysis conducted to date on the business environment of Avoca Handweavers

Blogpost Part 2 highlights the main points of the PESTLE analysis undertaken, and then guides you through a more detailed PESTLE analysis of the external business environment of Avoca _________________________________________________________________________

We’ve seen the high level view of the sector in which Avoca operates in blogpost 1 of this series. We also looked at the highlights of of a detailed PESTLE analysis in blogpost 2. In this third and final blogpost of the series, we look at where Avoca may need to focus on now in terms of meeting the current and future challenges of the business in the business environment in which it operates.

Source: Flickr

From the application and analysis of the SWOT, PESTLE, Porters 5 Forces and various other models used, it is evident that Avoca will need to address a number of aspects around the the external environment of their business.

They  need to budget for any increase in VAT on the services sector as although lobbying through industry groups can help there is no certainty the tax rate of 9% will be maintained into the future.


The same applies for business and service rates which will rise in the near future as the effect of the recent Local Government Reform Act 2014 will mean the local government bodies and not the Irish Government, will need to raise more revenue to fund day to day operations.

Avoca, like other businesses in retail today, will need to recognize the key drivers for change, especially in the technological areas. Greater investment in I.T. will need to be made in order to meet the future needs, requirements and expectations of their customers and suppliers.

Payments collage

Innovations in mobile point of sale and other 1 touch payment solutions means Avoca and the rest of the retail sector need to start now to scale up their Ecommerce capabilities in order to substantially future proof their business.

Another key area that Avoca needs to be more focused upon is the existing legal structure of the company. If Avoca plan to scale the business and grow, then greater clarity around its legal construct is needed if they are to try and raise finances from private equity funds or venture capitalists.

A major driver for change is the resurgence of the commercial property market in Dublin. Avoca have some upwards only leases and the profits they have been using to expand the business organically may be soaked up once more in higher rents and rates. They will need to prepare for this key driver by perhaps decoupling or divesting part of the overall business in order to minimize exposure to risk.


Sources: [ONLINE] Available at:     ,35715,en.pdf.           [Accessed 12 April 2014].

Cupcakes and all that…

12 April
Avoca operates as a clothing manufacturing, retail and food business in Ireland and the UK. The secondary research carried out by the Team involved looking more closely at Avoca within the retail sector. Avoca has always adopted innovative ideas to develop their product offering and have continued to perform ahead competitors despite the recession of the last number of years.

There are a number of reasons for this continued performance which includes product innovation and the ability of the company to focus on its target client and to react quickly to changing market trends when observed.

The overall retail market size is equivalent to 10% of GDP or €16 billion, although the growth rate has remained flat in 2013(footnote 1). Online shopping for food and groceries by internet users jumped from 3% in 2008 to 6% in 2012 (footnote 2).

Avoca have multiple offerings in different sub sectors of their business and they have successfully built an aspirational lifestyle brand based on ABC1 women aged from 25 – 70, although there is some evidence that the bulk of customers are in the 40-60 range and innovation with this in mind, may need to be considered in the future. My next post will deal with the tools used to analyse the sector, such as SWOT Analysis, PESTLE and Porters 5 forces. Till then, I’m off to make some cupcakes maybe worthy of Avoca (see picture).

1. Retail Ireland | Ibec – Business sectors. 2014. Retail Ireland | {ONLINE] Available at:
2. Ibid

Sectoral Analysis of Avoca Handweavers -Part 2 – [3 Part Series]

Avoca Handweavers Sectoral Analysis

Blogpost Part 1 gives a high level overview of the sectoral analysis conducted to date on the business environment of Avoca Handweavers Ltd.

Blogpost Part 2 highlights the main points of the PESTLE analysis undertaken, and then guides you through a more detailed PESTLE analysis of the external business environment of Avoca.

Blogpost Part 3 covers the main findings derived from the analysis, how they may impact Avoca’s business and what steps they may need to consider in order to meet these challenges into the future.      _________________________________________________________________________

Sectoral Environment – Part 2

Avoca PESTLE Analysis

As Avoca’s customer profile is primarily Continue reading Sectoral Analysis of Avoca Handweavers -Part 2 – [3 Part Series]

Sectoral Analysis of Avoca Handweavers -Part 1 – [3 Part Series]

Avoca Handweavers Sectoral Analysis

Blogpost Part 1 gives a high level overview of the sectoral analysis conducted to date on the business environment of Avoca Handweavers Ltd.

Blogpost Part 2 highlights the main points of the PESTLE analysis undertaken, and then guides you through a more detailed PESTLE analysis of the external business environment of Avoca.

Blogpost Part 3 covers the main findings derived from the analysis, how they may impact Avoca’s business and what steps they may need to consider in order to meet these challenges into the future. ______________________________________________________________________________

Sectoral Description – Part 1

The retail sector Avoca operates in includes such as food, textiles, hospitality and tourism. This highlights their willingness to listen to and anticipate the changing retail trends in order to give customers new  innovative products and services.

To put this 3 part blogpost series into the correct context, we’ll be analyzing from an overall retail sector perspective.

The total retail market size is Continue reading Sectoral Analysis of Avoca Handweavers -Part 1 – [3 Part Series]

Avoca 1 – Avignon 0

Having never darkened the door of an Avoca shop in my entire life I was shocked to find that someone had found a way to evoke a small French town on market day. The only things missing for me were the buskers in berets with accordions. The aromas from the rotisserie and fresh bread, the comfortingly chaotic layout of the food hall transported me to rural France instantly.

As you wander from table to table where the concessionaires display their wares with pride, they give you confidence that they would hold forth about their production and process methods and the lengths they go to perfect them. Indeed, the butcher gave me the sense that he could call each cow or sheep by name.

French,Market,Collage,St Tropez
French Market Collage St Tropez                                                                                                   Source: Flickr Risastla

Behind the apparently left-field nature of this shopping experience lies a very clever piece of business rationale. What Avoca have done, it appears to me, is gathered around them a network of suppliers and concessionaires who are passionate about the quality of their product, and therefore have no issue with asking the necessary price.

Stuck here in Dublin with its leaden skies and incessant rain, when I need my fix of Gallic character and passion for food it is a relief to know that I don’t need to travel too far to find it.

Avoca Handweavers Ltd.

Avoca Handweavers Ltd.

Avoca Handweavers Ltd., started life as a small handweaving business in the small town of Avoca, Co. Wicklow in1723. Faced with closure in 1974 it was purchased by the solicitor employed to sell the mill and two generations of the family has built the business to its current position where last year, the Company saw pre-tax profits soar by 73pc to €2.1m.
The Company, with 665 staff, plans to develop further unique food market and cafe operations and to develop new and distinctive ranges of fashion garments and accessories, according to the director’s report.
Avoca designs and manufactures its own clothing, food and home furnishings from its Wicklow base and it has 11 retail stores and cafes in the island of Ireland.
One of its strengths lies in the Company’s ability to react quickly to market changes, most recently the challenges of the recession, and to adapt its business to remain innovative in its approach to its business model.