By Rachel Cunningham
Dublin Chamber of Commerce this week sounded an optimistic note for city traders and hailed the re-opening days of non-essential retail as “a positive start”.
Media and Public Affairs Manager for the Chamber Marian O’Donnell said there was now real belief that business could get up and running again following the enforced Covid-19 lockdowns.
“While business owners are reassured by the Tánaiste’s commitment that there won’t be a cliff edge in terms of support, this is a short-term reassurance. Businesses are hoping for clarity and certainty for the longer term so that they can be prepared for any changes or restructuring that may be made to supports in the future. This isn’t just about reopening, it’s about successfully reopening and remaining open,” Ms O’Donnell explained.
An estimated 100,000 people are expected back to work this month, with 12,000 businesses reopening their premises or resuming normal trading. Last Monday marked a soft reopening of non-essential retail, with customers able to access shops for collection of goods, appointment-only shopping or to shop outdoors, with all remaining Irish retail scheduled to fully reopen from the start of next week.
Most tellingly, this week saw the return of hairdressers and beauty salons, in addition to museums, galleries and libraries – and by opening their doors, they let a breath of fresh air into all our lives.
Don Nugent, Centre Director at Dundrum Town Centre said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome customers back and I know our non-essential retail brands are looking forward to re-opening their doors next week. Our focus right now is on doing all we can to keep everyone safe and the measures we put in place last year will continue, including mandatory face coverings, hand sanitiser stations, contactless experiences, enhanced cleaning and the re-introduction of our Crowd Checker feature, which monitors footfall in real-time and is available via the website www.dundrum.ie
“We can’t wait to welcome back our staff and customers who we know are very excited by the return of non-essential retail. We also look forward to June when, following the government roadmap, our restaurants and leisure facilities will hopefully be able to reopen fully too”, he continued.
Director of Retail Ireland Arnold Dillon described it as “a buzz returning to the high streets after months of restrictions”.
One such example is the popularity with which the appointment-based return of fast fashion retailer Penneys has been met by potential customers, who flocked to the retailer’s booking portal last weekend.
Penneys Chief Executive, Paul Marchant, claimed that their 250,000 shopping appointments for this week were already 85 per cent booked out before a store had opened on Monday. The appointments are now fully booked and some have even tried to profit from the high demand by attempting to resell appointments for as much as €100.
The business group IBEC has predicted a rise of nine per cent in consumer spending in 2021, which would follow a significant drop of €9.1bn less being spent in Irish households last year when compared with 2019.
The CEO of Dublin Town, Richard Guiney, was overwhelmed by the return to business in the city centre, describing the queues outside some stores as “more than I would have anticipated.” He felt it was consistent with the high levels of footfall experienced last June after the first lockdown.
He estimated the footfall in the city to be at 45 per cent of normal levels and expected that it would rise to 60 per cent upon the return of the hospitality sector.
While there was positivity surrounding the return to business, the Chamber of Commerce highlighted noted concern among retailers over government financial aid.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar confirmed this week that Government financial supports would remain in place for businesses at least until the end of June, stating that updates on financial supports for those most affected by the lockdown will be announced at the end of May.
To aid reopening costs, businesses that opened this week will receive a double CRSS payment for each of the next two weeks.
Hairdressers and barbers reported brisk business this week. Dylan Bradshaw, owner of Dylan Bradshaw hair salon in Dublin, claimed that his team received 850 emails regarding appointments ahead of Monday’s opening day.
The Hair and Beauty Industry Confederation (Habic) expressed delight at the end of a long wait for its members. CEO, Margaret O’Rourke Doherty, said: “We can now recommence to provide the essential personal care services we carry out across Ireland. As the first few weeks will be hectic, we would like to thank customers for their support and patience.”
According to Phorest Salon Software, a series of no-shows following the first lockdown negative impact on the industry in 2020, costing a total loss of €519,000 in revenue was lost per day. Some salons have stated that they had little choice other than to charge booking deposits of up to €100 for appointments after hard lessons were learned last summer.
Ms O’Rourke Doherty stressed the importance of cancelling or rescheduling appointments with sufficient notice: “It means other customers cannot be accommodated, thus causing a massive loss in sales at a point when salons are already struggling.”
There was also a feeling of elation as the ban on travel between counties was lifted which means people can move freely within the country.
Mr Varadkar said on reaching the re-opening milestone: “This is a moment that businesses across Ireland have been waiting for.”
Phase one of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions will end on Monday (May 17)when all remaining retail will open. Phase two begins on June 2, tentatively welcoming the hospitality industry back through the reopening of hotels, B&Bs, guesthouse and self-catering accommodation.
Services including leisure facilities, indoor restaurant and bar services will be made available to overnight guests and residents only.
From June 7, outdoor services in bars and restaurants will be permitted to recommence with specific measures in place.
A number of higher risk activities, such as indoor hospitality and mass gatherings involving spectators, may be considered at the end of July and August, depending on the vaccine rollout and uptake, as well as emerging evidence regarding new COVID-19 variants.
- Lord Mayor launches business led Greening of Pearse Street campaign
- Emotional day as LSL win Fullam Cup
- PJ Gallagher Takes the Plunge for Dublin GAA Fans
- Cabinteely draw Bohs as Killester face hoops in cup
- Upgrade Completed of Accessible Entrance at Killiney Hill Park