Long queues formed outside some hardware shops and garden centres on Monday morning as an easing of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19 meant thousands of retail outlets in specific categories were able to reopen for the first time in seven weeks.
Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents thousands of shop owners, said the first phase of the reopening of Irish retail had "gone very well, with stores successfully implementing social-distancing requirements".
The umbrella group's director, Arnold Dillon, said its members had been reporting "brisk but manageable trade" and he added that there had been "sizeable queues in places, but these are being well managed and customers have been understanding and co-operative".
“Everyone wants to get this right,” he said.
Although the reopening timetable, as it has been outlined by the Government, will leave many retailers closed until much later in the summer, Mr Dillon expressed hope that if public health objectives could be met, “the timeline for the safe reopening of the entire sector can be brought forward”.
The experience outside hardware shops and garden centres around the country varied wildly, and although many shops were relatively quiet yesterday morning, shoppers outside other DIY shops had to stand in line for more than an hour before being granted admission. There were no reports of any issues or significant breaches of social-distancing rules in those queues.
Fears that the first easing of Covid-19 restrictions would lead to chaotic scenes outside some shops did not materialise, although data from transport authorities pointed to a significant increase in movement compared with a week previously.
Vehicle counters along key national routes and motorways showed increases of up to 38 per cent in the morning rush, with vehicle numbers increasing more then 25 per cent across most roads.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland said Monday’s traffic volume was “significantly higher” than in recent weeks but noted car numbers were still down by 49-68 per cent compared with this time last year.
Woodies has resumed trading at all 35 of its shops, with some local managers deciding to open shortly after 7am, a full two hours ahead of schedule, as queues had already started to form.
Chief executive Declan Ronayne said yesterday felt "like the right time to reopen and he suggested that DIY and gardening had "an important role to play in the mental health for most of us who remain largely confined to our homes and gardens".
Mr Ronayne stressed that its supply chain was strong and he urged people not to “rush to your local store or to bulk buy. In that way we can ensure the safest possible DIY shopping environment for everyone.”