People should not expect the experience of shopping to be the same as it was before the lockdown, the spokeswoman for one of Ireland’s leading retail umbrella groups has said.
Jean McCabe, acting head of Retail Excellence Ireland, also said there was a "huge appetite" among Irish consumers to start shopping again after almost three months of widespread closures.
From Monday, phase two of the Government’s roadmap for reopening society and businesses will begin, allowing street-facing shops to reopen.
Ms McCabe said retailers would be doing as much as they could to make shopping as positive as possible.
“I think the shopping experience is going to be more functional, more practical and faster than it was before the crisis started,” she said. “And I think the challenge facing all retailers will be to ensure that the environment is safe while also creating an experience for shoppers.”
Retailers were being “very innovative” and deploying apps to allow people to book appointments and managing queues while dramatically overhauling the level of in-store hygiene.
“I also think there is a real appetite out there to support local businesses and get back to what is the biggest hobby in the world,” she said. “And I think that desire to shop local is something that will endure. People are really conscious about where they are shopping now.”
Public transport services will increase in line with the Government’s plan to accelerate the reopening of the economy, but people have been urged to wait until after 10.30am before visiting shops, as the need for social distancing will mean the numbers carried on buses or trains will remain restricted.
The National Transport Authority urged workers to walk or cycle to work where possible and to wear face coverings on public transport.
Fools rush in
Lord mayor of Dublin Tom Brabazon cautioned people against rushing into the shops, as only 25 per cent would be reopened initially.
“My message to all Dubliners is that we are looking forward to welcoming you back into the heart of the city from Monday, but please remember that we are easing open,” he said.
The reopening is happening across the country. Gwen Culligan said she was looking forward to resuming trading at her two County Boutique shops in Nenagh and Ennis and outlined measures her businesses had taken beyond floor markings and hand-sanitising stations.
“We are offering customer appointments and have several lined up for the next couple of days,” she said adding that the shop had also started delivering clothes to customers’ homes to be tried on, and was offering an online delivery and pick-up service.
Sarah Kenny of Kenny's Bookshop in Galway said the shop would restrict the numbers allowed in to 12.
“We deem this will be safe for social distancing while allowing customers and staff to be comfortable. We will have hand sanitisers and gloves inside the door and have built a lot of new shelving,” she said, adding that the first hour in the morning would be dedicated to older and vulnerable customers.
Glenna Lynch of the Sofa Room on Leeson Street, Dublin, said the show was planning to see one customer or household at a time so it could offer comfortable social distancing.
“The shop is very relaxed, a space filled with sofas, so we want people to feel comfortable browsing and working through the options.”
She said it would have visits by appointment for most of the day, with a smaller drop-in slot.
“We feel that appointments are the only way we can offer predictable and safe access with social distancing. People who are sofa shopping often spend an hour or more in the shop. A typical first visit might be less, but still 30 minutes ... too long for anyone to wait outside.”
She said small independent retailers had the ability to change very quickly. "We are trying something that we may never have tried had Covid not struck. I think this might be the impetus to offer something distinctly better than click-and-buy across all types of product. Maybe this is the arrival of unique offerings that will put the human and personal contact back into buying, the pushback against Amazon. "