Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

14.04 24 Oct 2020


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Large food stores should "do the right thing" and close sections selling non-essential items during Level 5 restrictions, according to Retail Excellence.

Under the rules, only essential retail outlets are permitted to stay open.

However, some retailers are continuing to sell non-essential items such as clothing while thousands of businesses remain closed.

Duncan Graham, Managing Director of Retail Excellence, told Down to Business with Bobby Kerr it had been a "dreadful" week for retail.

He said: "This has been a dreadful week in retail, I think we've gone from a situation where there's been a palpable sense of shock on Monday evening from many of our members that the government would take this stance.

"I think the biggest shock was that it was going to be over a six-week period.

"Throughout this week we've taken hundreds of calls from members and emails around the whole subject, initially seeking clarification on exactly what were the guidelines because certainly, this issue of mixed retail where you've got non-essential and essential under the one roof was one that needed further clarification from government.

"I think we're now in a place over the last couple of days where the calls have moved from being clarification and concern to ones of anger.

"The vast majority of non-essential retail is simply doing the right thing.

He says large retailers selling non-essential items should "do the right thing" until the Level 5 restrictions are lifted on December 1st.

He added: "Bear in mind it's only nine weeks until Christmas and it's a time when retailers make around 70% of their annual turnover.

"Emotions are very high and raw out there and we can't have one rule for one and another for others.

"Some large retailers which have food halls and clothing section should literally only be selling food.

"Everything for the next six weeks needs to go online."

'Dublin retailers already behind'

On the same programme, Graham McQueen Head of Public Affairs with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said there needs to be a strong push for people to visit city centres once retailers are allowed to reopen.

He said: "I think Dublin city centre never really got back to where a lot of the other regional shopping centres would have got to, so Dublin retailers are already behind.

"What's happened over the last few days is they've had to stop trading unless they sell essential items so it's been really tough."

He said Dublin Chamber of Commerce has been trying to help retailers pivot to click and collect and online, and that the initiative to encourage people to shop local and shop Irish will really benefit businesses.

Mr McQueen said: "The focus has to be on getting out of this lockdown as soon as we can by working together and all having that common goal of opening at the start of December so that we can try and save Christmas in some way.

"I think what this period has highlighted is the lack of people living in the city centre, that's something that we've got to change.

"But in the short term, as long as public transport is at 25%, even if it's at 50%, people haven't been enticed back into the city centre, they don't feel safe going back in there.

"Once we get out of this lockdown, we've got to have a really slick marketing campaign to get people back into the city, support the businesses there and help save jobs."

Main image: Grafton Street in Dublin city centre is seen on day one of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in March. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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