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Saturday 27 February 2021
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'It's nice to be out and about again': Quiet start as retailers open their doors to Christmas shoppers

With just 24 shopping days left, retailers are expecting business to pick up.

SHOPPING STREETS IN Dublin’s City Centre were quiet this morning as retailers opened back up, with just 24 shopping days left before Christmas.

Although there were queues outside some Penneys stores across the country before they opened at around 7am, by 9am there was no one waiting to go into the Henry Street store.

Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

A small number of shoppers were out early to pick up some gifts and maybe a few things for themselves.

“I’m just in to get some Christmas things, we got a few decorations and Christmas jumpers and some PJs for the kids to wear on Christmas eve. I have a lot of my shopping done, we have most of the kids’ presents, we always get their stuff out of the way early so we’re not stressed about it,” one woman said.

Another shopper on Henry Street said she “just wanted to get out of the house”.

“I won’t be staying in long, I’ll pick up a few things and then head home but it’s nice to be out and about again.”

Public health officials yesterday advised people to consider the risks when getting out to do their shopping and this morning at least the message seemed to have got through.

“There are going to be opportunities or circumstances where there is more in the way of crowding, more interaction with people and so on,” Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony said at yesterday’s briefing.

“But one is not compelled to get on a crowded bus, or walk down a crowded street or go into a crowded shop. It’s really important that people begin to recognise these things and begin to take actions themselves.”

Shoppers this morning said they are not expecting a ‘normal’ Christmas, but some were enjoying the hint of festivity in the air.

“I usually love Christmas shopping but it won’t be the same this year will it?” one woman said. “That buzz around town, you won’t really have that as much. It’s still nice to be in the shops and they’re playing the Christmas songs, the staff all seem in really good form as well.”

Across the river on Grafton Street, it was equally quiet as shops prepared to open. Even outside the Brown Thomas department store, there was no queue until just before it opened its doors.

One customer waiting to go into the store said she gets a new tree decoration every year in the Christmas shop and came into the city centre this morning to pick one.

“We’ll be putting up the tree this weekend so I wanted to get in to get it. I thought it would be quiet enough at this time as it’s just opening up and most people are working today – I’m retired,” she said.

“I’ll be in and out since I know what I’m getting in there, just the decoration and some perfume for a gift. If I’d come in and seen big crowds outside on the street here I would have just gone back home to be honest, but I’m glad I can get this done and get it off my ‘to do’ list.”

Staff in the shops said they were “thankful” they were not faced with large numbers of people waiting outside to shop this morning, but they expect it to get busier as the day – and the week – goes on.

“It rained this morning, I’d say that kept people out and maybe a fear of crowds. I’m thankful to be honest. Lunchtime will probably be mad though,” one retail assistant told TheJournal.ie.

‘Not just about getting hair done’

Also reopening today were hairdressers and barbers, with many already almost fully booked for the next two weeks. 

Lisa Eccles, vice president of the Irish Hairdressers Federation said her salon in Kilmainham only has “a couple of slots” left over the next fortnight. 

“That probably would have been the case normally as we’d be rebooking clients in September for their December appointments,” she told TheJournal.ie.

“We’ve extended our opening hours until 8pm Monday to Friday. It’ll be a busy one, but it’s tough because we’re working at 50% capacity because of social distancing. 

I would have had 12 sections, that’s now reduced to six in the main salon with a couple of floating sections on the beauty side that I’ve put in. Compared to last December we’ll probably be looking at 70% of the appointments and we’re only able to do that because of the extra opening hours.

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She said customers this morning have been “thrilled” to get back in, with some bringing early Christmas gifts of chocolates or wine for their stylists. 

“We would have some elderly clients who had to cocoon for the best part of a year, they haven’t really had any social outlets and they all said they felt so safe coming here, they’re really happy to be out and it’s not just about getting their hair done, they need that social outlet.

“I think we’ve proven salons can be safe, we haven’t had any outbreaks and that’s a real testament to salons. I think it would be great if that could be taken into consideration and we could open even at Level 4 and only close again if we go to complete lockdown.”

‘Play your part’

The governemnt has asked people to bear in mind the risks as they go about their preparations for the Christmas period. Many businesses have extended their opening hours and public transport capacity has increased to 50%.

Liz Canavan, assistant general secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, yesterday asked customers to “play their part”.

She advised people to support their local retailers and remember they can still shop online and collect their goods or have them delivered.

“If you do go out shopping, wrap up warm in case you have to queue. Try to shop at off-peak times and remember to keep a two-metre distance from other shoppers.

“You must wear your mask in store for your safety and for that of other shoppers and staff. Try to keep your shopping time to a minimum and remember to use the hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the shop.”

The National Transport Authority has also  asked people to bear in mind there may be an increase in private cars on the roads which could cause delays to services. The authority advised intending passengers to allow more time for their journey and asked them to remain respectful towards transport workers.

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