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Retail industry needs a clear path to phased reopening


The Government’s latest announcement on Covid-19 restrictions represents a new low for the retail industry in Ireland. Since the start of January – and the start of the third lockdown – retailers have lost out on a full season’s worth of trading and saw the reintroduction of click-and-collect services as an absolute minimum on the road back to a full reopening of the industry.

However, the Government’s move to delay the reopening of retail in any form until May at the earliest has dashed their hopes and caused widespread disillusionment.

Up to this point, more than one year after the emergence of Covid-19 in Ireland, retailers have shown remarkable patience and understanding with a Government that clearly has a difficult task. But this patience is running out, and the trust that the industry has in this Government has been eroded. It is clear that this Government is losing the room and it is difficult to see how it can win it back.

Unclear timelines

There are a number of knock-on issues that its latest decision has caused, but as a starting point it does not help that the Government’s revised timelines for the reopening of the industry are unclear.

We have been denied a reopening of retail in any form in April, and at this stage all we can look forward to is a phased reopening of the industry from May, subject to public health guidelines. The ability to plan with any kind of certainty has been sorely lacking during this pandemic – a trend which has unfortunately continued with the latest announcement.

This has a very real impact on retailers’ bottom lines. Retailers need to be able to plan months in advance for future stock. For many clothing brands, for example, planning for next season’s stock needs to be done up to six months prior to sale. However, if business owners do not have faith in a reopening plan, then they are left in limbo.


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