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Drapers Awards 2016: Fashion Retailing Personality of the Year

Breege O’Donoghue, group director for new markets and business development, Primark

After 37 years as an integral part of one of the biggest fashion multiples in the UK and Ireland, Primark’s Breege O’Donoghue has been praised by her industry peers for her “phenomenal energy, razor-sharp mind and warm manner”.

A figure who resonates with everyone she meets, O’Donoghue is a worthy winner of the Drapers Personality of the Year Award 2016.

As group director for new markets and business development at the firm, the County Clare native has been at the forefront of Primark’s global expansion.

O’Donoghue joined the business in 1979, following 17 years at the Great Southern Hotels Group, and was initially responsible for setting up a human resources department. At the time Primark had 24 shops and was on the brink of breaking into the UK. It now has more than 300 stores in 11 countries and 60,000 employees.

For 21 years O’Donoghue was a member of the so-called gang of four at Primark, along with senior executives Paddy Prior and Seamus Halford – both now retired – and legendary Primark founder and chairman Arthur Ryan.

O’Donoghue was the only female board member at the firm for 26 years, making her a pioneer and a legend in her own right.

Her involvement spread from people to business development and, in the past decade, to international expansion – most recently launching Primark across Europe and in the hard-to-crack US market.

 

Known for sharing her vast wealth of business knowledge, O’Donoghue has also mentored many household names in the fashion industry over the years

 

A respected figure in the business world, she is also a non-executive director of C&C, the maker of Bulmers and Magners cider. In the past she has served on the boards of the Irish post office and the Irish airports authority, among others.

Known for sharing her vast wealth of business knowledge, O’Donoghue has also mentored many household names in the fashion industry over the years, and is renowned for sending Irish smoked salmon to everyone she interviews for a role, regardless of whether or not they get the job.

Paul Marchant, chief executive of Primark, has worked closely with O’Donoghue since he joined the firm in 2009, and describes her as a valued colleague, a confidante and a friend.

O’Donoghue stepped down from her role on the executive board of Primark in September, but

the 72-year-old will continue to represent the company as an ambassador, including in her

role as a pension trustee.

Her unwavering commitment to the business after nearly four decades will come as no surprise to anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting her.

 

Readers' comments (2)

  • Amazing lady. Formidable at times but highly inspiring. Such passion too for always raising the bar and improving performance. Well done Breege.

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  • Decent Man

    Lovely piece, on a great lady. It only seems like yesterday I was going into the second shop opened by Pennys ( Primark ) in the old Dundrum shopping centre, with my mother to get a pair of Jeepers jeans. Decent.

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