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Retailers call on government to move forward re-opening of sector to Monday

Cabinet is meeting today to discuss the Level 5 exit plan.

Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

RETAIL EXCELLENCE, THE largest body for the industry in Ireland, has set out three “key demands” for the government in advance of the anticipated reopening of non-essential retail next week. 

Cabinet is meeting today to discuss the Level 5 exit plan as all indications are the country will be moving back to Level 3 restrictions, with some modifications, come next Tuesday. 

Yesterday, Micheál Martin said that “no decisions have been made as yet” as to exactly what restrictions will follow Level 5.

However, it appears there will be good news for retailers, with all non-essential shops set to reopen. 

It is understood that retailers will also be given the green light to extend opening hours. While such a move usually requires planning permission, it is believed local authorities have been doing a lot of work with businesses to facilitate the longer opening hours. 

This is to mitigate crowds of shoppers descending on retailers in the weeks up to Christmas.

In a statement today, Retail Excellence set out three “key demands” for government in advance of the lifting of Level 5 restrictions. Current regulations are in place until 2 December, just after midnight.

The key demands are: 

  • The reopening of non-essential retail to be brought forward to Monday, 30 November at the latest.
  • Easing of national restrictions to enable shoppers to cross county lines and to accommodate indoor dining in coffee shops, cafes and restaurants. 
  • Retailers to be allowed to extend trading hours as needed for December. 

“This is the most critical week of the year for retailers, and we simply cannot afford to get the big decisions wrong around reopening non-essential retail,” Retail Excellence managing director Duncan Graham said. 

He also called on the government to ease restrictions from Monday so that shoppers could travel across county boundaries and also ensure coffee shops and cafes could facilitate indoor dining. 

“If shoppers cannot leave their own county, this will have a hugely negative effect on retailers who depend on this business,” Graham said. 

“At the same time, any level of restrictions above two would mean coffee shops and cafes could only facilitate outdoor dining for 15 people maximum, which would be devastating for businesses and act as a deterrent for shoppers in the coming weeks, especially given the bad December weather,” he said. 

Graham has also called on the government and local authorities to allow for longer trading hours through December to adequately deal with shopper demand. 

As noted above, it is understood that retailers will be given the green light to extend opening hours. 

“Retailers have done everything they can to mitigate the risks posed by Covid-19, and an extension of opening hours would mean they could effectively deal with customer demand for Christmas. It makes sense in every respect,” Graham said. 

He also called on the Irish people to support Irish businesses this Christmas. 

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“Now more than ever before, we need to think before we click and shop local. Irish businesses deserve our support after a year when many have been closed for up to 20 weeks, so now is the time to give something back,” he said. 

With reporting by Christina Finn

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