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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 22 June 2021

Paint and plants top customer lists as hardware stores report a busy two days

Hardware stores opened yesterday as part of Phase One, with queues outside some shops.

Decwells hardware store in Dublin.
Decwells hardware store in Dublin.
Image: Leon Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

LIKE MANY OTHER things during the Covid-19 pandemic, no one expected hardware stores to become a source of celebration and consternation. As queues formed outside shops yesterday on the first day of Phase One, some people asked – what is it that people need to buy so urgently?

Apparently, it was paint. And plants. That’s according to the hardware store owners and staff who spoke to TheJournal.ie. 

Across the country, people did queue – in a socially distant manner – to get into some hardware stores. Even the smaller shops reported brisk and busy trade as people availed of the loosening of restrictions and the re-opening of hardware stores. 

And while there was minimal drama and perhaps fewer queues than some expected, staff reported that yesterday was an incredibly busy day.

Robert MacNamara, the owner of Expert Hardware in Baldoyle, said people were respectful of public health rules. 

“People have it in their heads at this point. They know they have to stay apart. Most people have been pleasant,” he said.

The in-demand items in north Dublin? Paint, paint accessories, garden products and plants. “We sold a vast amount of plants,” MacNamara said. 

The store is serving customers from the door only. McNamara cites the “physical demand” of trying to re-organise stock to make the interior safe as the main obstacle to letting customers inside. 

“It’s been very very brisk. Yesterday was one of our busiest days ever,” he said. Compared to this time last year, he was selling four times the amount of hoes, rakes and garden shears. 

“People are proud of their houses anyway and a lot of this work has been put off for a long time,” McNamara thinks. “This is giving people down time to work on their homes and gardens.”

Somewhat strangely for a store that was operating a collection and online service, he says that many people came in looking for light-bulbs. 

“I can’t really put a finger on it,” he says. “If you needed light-bulbs, you still needed them.”


In Hickeys hardware store in Cork, there was little sign of any geographical variation in demand. 

Paint was the most popular item bought yesterday, says owner John Kennedy, followed by vegetable and flower seeds. 

“Most of them were looking for paint,” says Kennedy of his customers. “They all knew what they wanted, there was no browsing. They were on a mission.”

Like other hardware stores, outdoor tools like shovels and rakes also sold well. 

In a shop of over 1,000 square metres, Kennedy said that there was little issue with social distancing. 

Asked about queues, he said it was “very orderly – a steady flow of orderly people”. 


It wasn’t the small stores that trended on Twitter, however. Woodies and B&Q were the places reporters and photographers were sent to as observers eagerly anticipated long queues of people desperate for gardening gear. 

B&Q, which has eight stores in Ireland, opened at 8am. A company spokesperson said that “despite the rain, customers were in good spirits and really supported us in our efforts”.  

And the in-demand items?

“Popular items purchased on the first day back include paint, plants, compost, gardening tools and general home repair items and construction materials including timber, drills, hammers, nails, and guttering,” the spokesperson said. 

48 Woddies opens Plants were a popular item for customers at Woodies yesterday. Source: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

It was a similar story over at Woodies, which has 35 stores across the country. 

CEO Declan Ronayne visited several of the stores as they re-opened and told TheJournal.ie that people seemed to be buying things with big plans in mind. 

There was, he said, an “awful lot of project purchasing, with people buying a lot of everything”.

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“They’re buying a lot and we won’t see them for a fair while,” he said. 

Outdoor, decking and fence paints were a much-prized item, apparently, while there was also “a lot of emphasis on rakes and shovels”.

“More than usual for this time of year,” Ronayne said. “Our expectation was that our garden category would have been the biggest category over paint and that’s how it transpired.”

People were also spending more than usual. “The average value of a transaction in Woodies, as opposed to normal, shot up,” he said. 

And as for the queues? “The feedback we’ve had from customers is that people had no problem whatsoever in queuing,” Ronayne said – the average waiting time was between 15 and 30 minutes. 

He also said that the “pinch point” of checkouts was focused on to ensure there weren’t huge queues stretching inside the store, with only a certain number of people allowed to shop at once. 

As for the possibility of different shopping habits across the country, it didn’t seem to exist. For now, it seems, the country is united in a desire for paint, plants and DIY projects. 

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