Penneys are Psychic? Possibly.

In 1969, one of the biggest Irish retail narratives began to unfold with the founding of Penneys on Dublin’s Mary Street. The initial store was developed by Arthur Ryan on behalf of the Weston Family, proprietors of Associated British Foods and by proxy, Penneys. In 1974, Arthur Ryan brought Penneys to the United Kingdom, began trading under the alias of Primark, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since those humble beginnings, nearly fifty years ago, Penneys has expanded almost beyond belief. The company has opened over 290 stores, with two stores in the US this year alone, and employs over 60,000 people. All of which began on a small, relatively quiet street on the north-side of Ireland’s capital city.

However, whilst the rhetoric of Penneys is inherent in the vernacular here in Ireland – “Thanks, Penneys” – that is not true for the brand’s emerging customer base within the US. Opening in Boston and then Philadelphia, the brand collaborated with Refinery 29 and celebrity ambassadors, Emily Ratajkowski and Keke Palmer. However, the migration also required Penneys to refine the pillars of their ethos and the tenets of their branding. A difficult task for most conglomerates, but a more significant challenge for a fast-fashion retailer who disobeys convention and doesn’t advertise within traditional media.

The company embrace social media and effortlessly continue to strike the balance of personalised content and professional customer service online.

They exhibit aspirational content to their youngest audience through Snapchat and shamelessly promote their consumers who upload images wearing their latest Penneys purchases using the hashtag #Primania. With a Facebook following of almost 4.4 million, that’s a reach and a platform which every prospective fashion blogger dreams of.


Today though, Penneys take to Twitter to launch #MysticMotherChristmas, a campaign which Olly Ryzsko, Head of Digital Communications for Primark, told me is “inspired by Advanced Style and Iris Apfel”.

With today being ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ in the UK, the brand is asking customers to take a selfie in their Christmas jumper and tweet ot using the hashtag #MysticMotherchristmas. Then, Penneys’ own Mystic Shelagh will respond with an individual and personalised gif or video to predict your success for the oncoming year.

How does it work?

Ryzsko said “We’re shooting live in a studio for every response with a great team of prop and set designers along with a script writer. We’ve got support from Hootsuite, Giphy and also Twitter. We also have an incredible social media team who are crowded round a conference table co-ordinating all of the replies.”

This is by no means Penneys’ first jaunt into the digital innovation, Ryzsko admits that, “In two years we’ve built an audience of 7million across our social channels and we continue to grow and make that experience better every day. We’ve just put Snapchat geo filters on some of our key stores and we’ll continue to innovate and create fun experiences throughout 2016.”

As for #MysticMotherChristmas, Shelagh has already predicted fortunes in French today whilst simultaneously engaging with market rivals, ASOS. The campaign celebrates Penneys’ collaboration with Unicef Ireland, with €2 of each jumper sold being donated to the charity.

Selfie, Shelagh, sustained success. What more could you ask for on a Friday?

Written by

Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.

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