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Polishing off your Christmas shopping today? Here's how you can stay safe and support local business

Check with your local authority or chamber and shop local.
Dec 24th 2020, 11:40 AM 7,659 4

SOME OF US might only begrudgingly admit it but polishing off the shopping on Christmas Eve can be one of the real treats of the festive period.

It can also be stressful and uncomfortable.

This year, even the things that we enjoy about the experience — soaking up the atmosphere, bumping into friends and stopping in somewhere for a coffee or a pint — are obviously a lot more difficult than we’d like them to be.

That’s disappointing for us, but it’s also a major issue for local businesses in town and city centres across the country, many of which have been shuttered for portions of the year.

We’ve all had to make an effort to support local Irish businesses in 2020.

“Our members have been heartened by the support that they’ve gotten from local shoppers and the public,” says Dee Ryan, chief executive of Limerick Chamber.

“It’s been wonderful to see. We’ve all gone on a journey of appreciation of how connected and interdependent we all are, not just from a supply chain perspective but also in terms of jobs and understanding that there are families behind each of those jobs and people whose lives are impacted by the pandemic.”

With that in mind, here are three things you can do today to support local businesses while making the process as pleasant and safe as possible:

1. Safety first

By far the most important thing this Christmas — yes, more than getting that roll of emergency wrapping paper in — is personal safety: yours, your family’s and that of the staff working this afternoon. That means masks, hand sanitiser and adhering to social distancing. If you’re combining your shopping with a little bit of responsible socialising, try to do so in a well-controlled environment; in other words, cafes, bars and restaurants where public health guidelines are being observed to the letter.

Ryan:

Health and safety first!… We would encourage everyone to wear their masks, not just in the shops, but also on the streets. The vast majority of people are hand sanitising and patiently queuing so we’re not hearing any reports of issues. But if you are socialising — and we’re mindful that we all want to see our family and friends — if possible, please choose regulated environments.

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2. Plan ahead and be patient

Under normal circumstances, the truth is that very few of us are organised enough to have the bulk of our messages done before the final few shopping days. Hopefully, that will have changed a bit this year but if you are battling to get the last few bits, the message is: plan your trip to town and don’t bloody panic! 

Ryan:

Well done to the local authorities around the country who — when preparing cities and towns to come out of the first lockdown in May — put in extra car parking places. Certainly in Limerick, our local authority has gone to a lot of trouble to identify and open up free parking spaces, mindful that there isn’t as much capacity on public transport and that people are more apprehensive about it anyway. So there may be a little walk involved to get into the town centre proper… Plan your trip. Get your goods. Enjoy the atmosphere. Get home safely.

3. Get online and stay local 

Finally, there are at least two good reasons to do a bit of research before you saddle up to finish the last of your shopping. Firstly, you might be able to avoid long, uncomfortable queues if you can find businesses that offer a click and collect service. Secondly, you can check if your county or city council has any sort of directory of local businesses that could do with your support today. For example, Limerick City and County Council, in conjunction with Limerick Chamber has set up the ‘Shop Limerick’ website. Cork, Kerry and Fingal county councils, to name a few, have set up similarly handy directories. So make sure you check before you shop.

Ryan:

I would be very hopeful that the pandemic has given us all an awareness of what we can do to support local business. What we did in conjunction with Limerick City and County Council is we set up an online directory called ‘Shop Limerick’, which has gotten great traction, great traffic.
It’s a directory of all of the shops that are open and trading online and you can contact without having to go into their premises. You can also go into their premises and certainly as we get closer to Christmas now, you might want to go in to collect items rather than have them delivered. We’ve also put together some suggested gift guides with some ideas of presents for people in your life that you can source locally. So everybody should check — with their local authority, their local chamber or their local high street trader association — if this kind of information is available.
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Ian Curran

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