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Debunked: No, Smyths Toys is not closing its doors and going 'online only' in the run up to Christmas

Several claims online say the store is to stop retail sales from next week.

fact deb

WITH CHRISTMAS IN just over three month’s time, questions are understandably being asked about what the Christmas season will look like with Covid-19. 

TheJournal.ie last week explained what the new ‘Living with Covid-19′ plan means for family gatherings and people travelling to see loved ones.

Another question that remains to be answered is exactly what Christmas shopping in the time of social distancing and other restrictions will look like. 

It is around this question that a number of false or incorrect claims have been circulating online. 

The Claim

One such claim relates to Smyths Toys Superstores, and says that the seller is set to ‘close from 1 October’ and move to ‘online only’ sales. 

The claim has been made in multiple posts, with a number of people saying that they have been told by Smyths delivery drivers that this is the case.  

Parents looking to buy toys as Christmas presents have expressed concern over the possible closure, so what is the truth?

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False

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Smyths has said the claim that the store is to close from next week is not true. 

“These claims are false, we are not closing on October 1st,” a spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson acknowledges that the Christmas shopping period is likely to be different this year and that, as a result, the toy store is placing an extra emphasis on a ‘click and collect’ services, as well as implementing other measures. 

“We have seen a significant increase in online sales since March. We offer free same-day click and collect service at all of our stores. This is a safe and quick way to shop at our stores and also for our older customers who may be nervous. We luckily were able to offer this during lockdown also,” the spokesperson said.

Business group Retail Excellence has previously urged people to consider doing their Christmas shopping earlier than usual to encourage social distancing among shoppers.

Asked whether this has happened, the Smyths spokesperson says that “anecdotally from store managers” there have been more trolleys in store earlier than usual this year. 

But could toy stores be forced to close anyway? 

Under the government’s Living with Covid-19 roadmap, toy stores would likely be forced to close if a county was at Level 4 restrictions.

At present, Dublin is at Level 3 restrictions while the rest of the country is at Level 2

Under Levels 2 and 3 retail stores can remain open as long as protective measures are in place. These measures include practices like the wearing of face coverings, limits on numbers in the store and the setting up of protective screens. 

This would change under Level Four however, when only essential retail outlets and businesses that are primarily outdoors could remain open.

During the strict lockdown in March and April, an indicative list of “essential retail outlets” was provided by government. It included outlets such as food stores, pharmacies and electrical stores but did not include toy stores.

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*******

There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not.

STOP, THINK AND CHECK

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie 

  

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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