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Dublin: 18°C Tuesday 22 June 2021
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Happy shoppers return to stores but city retailers warn that tourism and office workers are still key

Customers can expect social distancing enforcement, one way traffic systems and lots of hand sanitiser.

Updated May 17th 2021, 11:02 AM

coronavirus-mon-may-17-2021 Shoppers queuing on Henry Street in Dublin. Source: PA Images

THERE WERE SOME queues at shops across the country today as non-essential retail opened for the first time this year, but the reopening was relatively quiet compared to other retail reopenings over the past year.

The reopening comes as part of the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions and follows click-and-collect services last week. 

Further easing of restrictions will take place in the early weeks of June, as hotels and then restaurants and bars open for outdoor service. 

With stores now open for walk-in customers, face coverings are still mandatory to wear for customers and staff – with the usual exemptions. 

Other public health measures you might expect are in place, including hand sanitisers around stores, while many outlets have promised enhanced cleaning routines and processes.

Social distancing will also be enforced by way of signs and floor markings in larger and smaller stores. 

Dublin city centre was relatively quiet compared to other retail reopenings over the past year with several retailers pointing out that, while today is an important day for stores, city centre stores are hugely dependant on footfall from people working in town and tourists. 

Penneys on O’Connell Street was restricting numbers to 100 customers per hour, a relatively small number of customers but this cap was easily being reached. 

One street trader who sells phone covers and now facemasks says tourist souvenirs are his bread and butter and that any kind of summer tourism would be huge for his business. 

He asks people who’ve been shopping online to return to the shops.

We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for everybody. Now that everyone’s been home, maybe older people who’ve never shopped on the internet before, their children have introduced them to shopping online and they’ve probably found it very convenient. When they go into the shops they compare prices and they see that massive difference in the prices. So I mean, there’s a big worry for the future retail in the city centre.

He adds: 

It’s great to have people come into the shops and to see the footfall but obviously we’re missing the tourists really, really badly. The tourists were a massive input into the retail environment in the city centre but they’re gone obviously, for maybe a year, maybe two years, we don’t know. But they were a big big loss and they were throughout the year.  

Outside the cities

Swedish furniture superstore Ikea said in a press statement that they will have social distancing ‘wardens’ to help customers and ensure social distancing guidelines are followed in their Ballymun and Carrickmines stores.

Customers can expect store customer numbers to be reduced and to be monitored in many outlets. 

Ikea will have a new “traffic light system” to monitor this, while Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin said it will also be monitoring live occupancy levels.

Some large retailers may operate online queueing – including Kildare Village, which says people can scan QR codes at boutique entrances and will get sent messages telling them when they can come in. 

Kildare Village has also said all customers will have their temperatures scanned on arrival.

If you’re planning to hit the shops today, remember sit-in dining in food courts is still not allowed, however, many will offer takeaway or delivery services.

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The HSE has advised all customers to plan ahead before venturing out shopping. They have also advised shops to offer dedicated hours to people who are at high risk from Covid-19 and haven’t been vaccinated.

In some outlets, seating may be removed for improved customer safety – as is the case in Mahon Point Shopping Centre in Cork City. Dundrum Centre said in a press statement that they are providing additional outdoor seating.

Some play areas for children will also remain closed, such as Ikea’s Småland. Lift capacities may be reduced to one person or one household, which Dundrum Shopping Centre has promised as have all Brown Thomas stores.

coronavirus-mon-may-17-2021 Shoppers on Henry Street in Dublin. Source: PA Images

‘A landmark day’

Speaking ahead of the reopening, Duncan Graham, Managing Director of Retail Excellence, said today is “a landmark day for the retail industry in Ireland and fantastic news for 280,000 retail employees around the country”.

“We eased back into trading with click and collect services and appointment-only shopping last week, and now retailers get the opportunity to fully welcome shoppers back into their stores after a long, hard four and a half months of the latest lockdown.”

Graham said this easing of restrictions is different to those that happened in the past.

“Thankfully, our vaccination rollout is picking up pace and we have had strong assurances from the Government that we are not going backwards. Finally, this means that retailers can plan for the weeks and months ahead with the sort of confidence that has been missing for over a year,” he stated.

With reporting by Órla Ryan and Rónán Duffy

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