Q&A: Des Kelly Interiors

Guaranteed Irish member Des Kelly Interiors is a wholly Irish owned and run family business, based on affordable quality and expert advice in beds, floorings and home furnishings.

Greg Kelly, Managing Director, his brother, Gerardo Kelly and sister, Youlanda Kelly talk the rich history behind Des Kelly Interiors, supporting local producers and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the business.

Can you give us a brief history of Des Kelly Interiors?

Founded by Des Kelly, who passed away four years ago, and the company is now led by his son, managing director Greg Kelly, with his brother, Gerardo Kelly and sister, Youlanda Kelly.  Many members of the extended Kelly family, children and grandchildren, work across the network of ten showrooms throughout Leinster and the online retail business.  The company gives employment to more than 200 people, made up of employees and contractors, many of whom have been with the business for decades.  On a number of occasions, three generations of one family have worked in sales or as fitters for the interiors business. 

In the early 1960s, Des Kelly (a pioneer of recycling!) originally sold second-hand furniture from his back yard in the inner-city, later extending to carpets and vinyl, which was then called ‘oil cloth’. On opening the shop at Cross Guns Bridge in 1970, people travelled from all over the east coast to deal with ‘the Carpet Man’.  Carpet was way out of reach of the average working class family at that time and was seen as an unaffordable luxury, according to son Greg Kelly. Des changed all that and made carpets easily affordable.  He revolutionised the carpet industry in Ireland, and some might even say that he invented it”, Greg Kelly says of his father’s business foresight.

The late Des Kelly was a pioneer, a hard worker and a tremendous example to his family, according to daughter Youlanda Kelly. Dad would be so very proud to see the business he started from nothing still thriving and growing after fifty years.  His work ethic and pragmatic approach was the best education in business that any of us could ever have had”.

What are the challenges that you face in your business and how do you work to overcome them particularly in the current climate?

 You are constantly meeting challenges in business, some common to all business types and others more directly associated with the type of industry you are in. The biggest challenge facing business currently is Covid-19. The first lockdown in March was a very difficult challenge, for the whole country, but retail was hit particularly hard, closing overnight for three months. This posed questions of how to prepare for reopening and how to protect your staff and customers, while ensuring that your business had a future. We quickly realised that while our business is one that is particularly suited to footfall in store, where customers can see and feel the products, while getting expert one to one advice, there was a lot we could do, with advances in online technology, which would enable the business to function with a greater online presence. Having identified this, we moved fast to improve our online functionality and were therefore much better positioned for the second lockdown, allowing the business to continue trading this time around, all be it at lesser volume. We’ve been through a lot over the past 50 years, with the 2008 recession in particular and our response to it proving a good test of our resilience.

Why is it important to you to have 90% Irish suppliers?

As a 100% Irish owned, family business, we see the long lasting, positive effects ours and companies like ours have on the economy. Ireland is a very open economy and benefits greatly from being so, but it’s very important to have a strong domestic economy, with indigenous Irish companies providing employment. That’s one of the main reasons why we are so supportive of Irish suppliers, with 90% of our products coming from Irish suppliers.

Des Kelly Interiors recently celebrated 50 years in business, how did you mark such a milestone?

We had an event planned, but under the circumstances we could not go ahead with this. Instead, we celebrated online – read our blog here. We hope to have further celebrations when things have settled down in the New Year.

What made you decide to become a member of Guaranteed Irish?

Being a proud Irish household name, we believe that anything that reinforces this is important and that’s why we wanted to be associated with the Guaranteed Irish logo. After all we are the company with the tagline “Where Quality Costs Less” and we don’t just say that we mean it. Our customers are guaranteed the best quality, Irish supplied, products for less. Members of ‘Guaranteed Irish’, the Des Kelly business has 90% Irish suppliers including Navan Carpets, Ulster Carpets, Furlong Flooring, Respa Beds, Kaymed, and many more, a deliberate business position to ensure continuity of supply, competitive prices and quality.

Any exciting plans coming down the line?

Recently a large new central warehouse, soon to be the company’s head office, was established at North West Business Park in Dublin to receive all carpet, wood flooring, beds and furniture for dispatch to stores and direct to customers. Des Kelly Interiors hope to expand further and make our online presence bigger and better.

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