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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 3 August, 2020
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'It's good to see town busy': Penneys re-opening sees long queues and excited shoppers

In Dublin and across the country, hundreds queued to enter Penneys.

Shoppers leaving Penneys this morning.
Shoppers leaving Penneys this morning.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

PENNEYS SHOPPING BAGS were everywhere to be seen on Henry Street in Dublin this morning, as hundreds of people stood in line for the re-opening. 

Closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, Penneys’ announcement that it would re-open 16 stores on Friday prompted speculation of frenzied queues and swamped shops across the country. 

Today, there was certainly plenty of excitement as people of all ages happily waited in line for their chance to shop as gardaí looked on.

And while the old bustling high street might be a thing of the past in an era of social distancing, there was certainly a sense of pre-pandemic normality this morning.

The same queues were replicated across the country, after weeks of waiting for shops and businesses to re-open. 

“It’s very well organised, there’s nobody pushing or shoving, grabbing at clothes or anything,” Roma, who lives in Dublin, told TheJournal.ie. 

Penneys staff, many of whom hadn’t worked in weeks, took on the role of queue managers – encouraging social distancing and guiding people, where necessary, to where the queue ended. At times, older customers were ushered in without needing to queue. 

“People are browsing and they seem to know what they actually want when they go in,” Roma said. “People are distanced, but they could have been more distanced.”

pennys Mary st 875 The queue this morning to enter Penneys.

Praising the approach taken by the retailer, she said it was well-spaced and screens were up at tills. 

“Some of the staff have gloves on and some of them have masks. I wasn’t long queuing at all.”

Very few people wore masks today – despite encouragement from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and, more recently, the World Health Organisation special envoy on Covid-19. 

“There is so much controversy about the masks, so my decision is not to wear one,” Roma said. “The majority of people who are shopping don’t seem to be wearing masks, but some of the staff are. It’s whatever you feel.”

People came from beyond Dublin to shop, while others stayed at friends’ houses to be closer to the store. One person travelled from Navan at 7.30am this morning. Queuing was “quick enough”, she told TheJournal.ie as she rushed inside the store. “It was only five minutes around the corner. It’s gotten longer now though,” she said. 

The length of the queue changed dramatically as the morning went. Although scheduled to open at 10.30am to meet requirements for staggered opening times, it’s understood that gardaí told the store to re-open earlier in the face of long queues that stretched hundreds of metres from Henry Street onto Parnell Street. 

At times though, the number of people queuing dropped to only a few as the early morning rush abated – before swiftly picking up again after 10am.  

Inside, every second till was closed to leave enough space for social distancing between staff, while hand sanisters were available at the entrance and inside the store. 

People told TheJournal.ie that they were there to buy essentials. Collette, who came from Clondalkin, said she was here to buy “knickers, bits and bob”. 

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“It’s good to see town busy again. It’s good to bring an atmosphere back in, because it’s so dead at home. It’s good to see people out.”

She said she wasn’t worried about facing the busy street. 

“I think people are putting the right measures in, so it’s good,” she said. 

Another customer, Anna, was in the queue at 10am and was still far from the entrance. 

“We’ve been waiting for the stores to open so we can buy some new clothes,” she said. A regular visitor to Penneys, she said the queue didn’t faze her. 

“I thought it was going to be much bigger. I think before we got here it was going a little bit faster than now,” she said. 

As for what she was buying: “Leggings and socks and the things that are really needed.”

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