Donegal retailer receives lifetime achievement award

DONEGAL retailer John McElhinney has won the Drapers Lifetime Achievement Award. The founder of McElhinneys Department Store in Ballybofey was presented with his award at the annual Drapers Independents Awards 2021 which were held on Thursday last at the London Hilton Bankside.

McElhinneys celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and is a landmark independent department store with customers travelling across the country to visit its bridal rooms and occasionwear offering.

Drapers has been recognising excellence in independent retailing in Ireland and UK for 30 years, but in 2021, highlighting the achievements of this sector has never been more important.


As the sector builds a new future, the Drapers Independents Awards 2021 celebrated the fashion retailers and brands that have innovated to survive, supported their local communities, and built stronger businesses under the toughest of circumstances.

As a young man, John built McElhinneys from the ground up, steering it through a flood in 1985 and a fire attack during the Troubles. It survived the successive lockdowns in Ireland thanks in part to its strong online operation and the loyalty of its customers.

Offering a wide range of brands and designers from around the world, McElhinneys is a modern, relevant and evolving department store at the heart of its community.” Graeme Moran, Acting Editor, Drapers

Originally from Doochary, John McElhinney and his family moved to Dooish in the early 1960’s. John began his career as a drapery assistant in a local store and from this experience he started his entrepreneurial venture travelling and selling groceries, clothing and household items from the back of a Dodge van.

Having always dreamed of owning his own store, John realised his dream on the 4th of May 1971, opening his first premises – a small 500 square foot store – on Glenfin Street, Ballybofey. From the beginning, McElhinneys became a household name throughout the North-West for the quality, service, and value that John gave to his customers.

As one of the few remaining independent, family-run department stores in Ireland, and indeed Europe, the consistent factor of McElhinneys success throughout the years has been the drive, ambition, and initiative of John McElhinney.

Today McElhinneys is a multi-award-winning retail destination store and one-stop shop, with fashion, beauty, homeware, accessories, lingerie and bridal – all housed within 100,000 square foot state of the art department store.


“I would like to thank my family for their continued support throughout the years, my wife Eileen, my Son Martin and his wife Angela, my daughter Catherine and her husband Joe and also my grandchildren. To my hard working and loyal staff both past and present, thank you for your dedication and passion for McElhinneys throughout our 50 years in business,” Mr McElhinney said.

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