‘This is like a celebration’: Shoppers rejoice as Brown Thomas reopens

More than 100 line the aisles just minutes after opening on Grafton Street

Shoppers queue as Brown Thomas was due to reopen on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Shoppers queue as Brown Thomas was due to reopen on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Moments before Brown Thomas on Grafton Street opened its doors for the first time since the middle of March a man wearing a face mask shuffled towards the top of the 80-strong queue and asked if someone was dead.

When it was explained that no one had died but Brown Thomas was coming back to life after almost three months in mothballs he paused.

“Oh I thought all those people were lining up for a funeral.” Then he walked off in the direction of the dental hospital for a scheduled appointment shaking his head as he stepped lightly along the way.

Valentina Fitzpatrick from Rome reckoned the atmosphere was far more joyous than funereal. “This is like a celebration,” she enthused. “It is just so great to be here, to meet people, to have that human contact and to touch the stuff.”

As the doors opened shoppers were greeted as normal by men in top hats and tails but the doormen were joined by a newly installed electronic screen which highlighted exactly how many people were in the store at any given moment.

Concierge at Brown Thomas department store Shane Murphy. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Concierge at Brown Thomas department store Shane Murphy. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minutes after opening and after the entire queue had been accommodated inside the store, the counter said there were 89 shoppers on the shop floor. Some five minutes later the number had increased to 106, still 300 less than the maximum.

At the very top of the queue had stood two 17-year-old girls. What were they doing there on a dreary Wednesday morning? “I just thought I’d treat myself to a pair of McQueens,” one said casually as she pointed at her friends feet. They sported gleaming white trainers. McQueens, presumably. And how much were they going to cost? “€400 but it is just a treat.”

It wasn’t quite handbags at dawn for Kate Kliszcz from Poland via Bray but it was a handbag at 10.30am.

“It’s a Louis Vuitton I am buying of course,” she said. “I was just about to get it before the lockdown but I couldn’t buy it online. It is the only thing I really want.”

And the price? “It will be a little bit over €1,200,” she said. “I might buy something else as well.”

Annette Hughes from Glenageary wasn’t planning to spend quite as much but she was equally thrilled to be outside the store. “I wasn’t able to get what I wanted online.”

Would she not be anxious in a make-up hall in the current climate? “No, I know exactly what it is so I am going to go in and out.”

Brown Thomas: In-store signage ‘In the Interest of Safety - Think before you Touch’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Brown Thomas: In-store signage ‘In the Interest of Safety - Think before you Touch’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

She did not seem like the anxious sort in any event and had not been remotely deterred to by the less than pleasant weather. “I would have come in even if it had been absolutely lashing,” she said with conviction. “I also took a bus and Luas to get here and I am in the 60+ age group and everything but I have my mask in my bag and I have my hand sanitiser.”

Behind her stood a mother and daughter, one of whom was turning 21 this Saturday. “I’m getting her Chanel earrings,” Deirdre Kiloch from Finglas said nodding in the direction of her smiling child Aoife. “They are not the sort of thing you would buy online because you don’t know what size they are or how they are going to look.”

She said she wouldn’t be buying anything else. “All my money is going on her,” she explained with a laugh before saying she was thinking of nipping across the river to Arnotts to spend a voucher she had got last Christmas.

Also in the present market was a woman from Terenure who asked to be identified only as Rita.

Rita from Terenure was going in to Brown Thomas to buy Green Irish Tweed for her son’s birthday.

The Irish Times wondered if that was some class of jacket?

Rita looked at The Irish Times like it had two heads. “No,” she said. “It’s a cologne or a perfume. If you buy that everyone will be after you. It’s made by House of Creed. And Prince Charles wears it. It costs €280 a bottle.”

She said she had no plans to buy anything for herself. “I have enough to keep me going till I’m in the coffin.” Then she said some unprintable things about Boris Johnson and his special friend Dominic Cummings.

Brown Thomas: Donald McDonald, managing director, Brown Thomas as the doors were being unlocked by a colleague. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Brown Thomas: Donald McDonald, managing director, Brown Thomas as the doors were being unlocked by a colleague. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Inside the door, the managing director of Brown Thomas Donald McDonald was looking pretty pleased, all things considered. He was happy enough with the numbers in the store and happier still with the calmness of the opening. “When you look at the numbers here on a wet Wednesday morning, it’s very positive,” he said.

“But we are also very conscious of the safety and we can accommodate a lot of people in the store at any one time because of the size. We will limit it to about a third of the maximum.” He suggested that as people “come in and see the measures we have put in place they will be much more relaxed”.

As he spoke staff, many of whom were wearing face masks, milled around tidying displays and spritzing their hands with sanitiser that smelled like vodka. Apart from that everything seemed almost normal.