Thousands of retailers are due to open their doors to customers later after almost five months of closure.
Ireland takes another step towards normality with all non-essential retail being allowed to resume on Monday.
Click-and-collect services and in-store shopping resumed last week as part of a phased reopening of retail but stores have not been allowed to open their doors to all customers since before New Year’s Eve.
Retail Excellence, the organisation representing more than 2,000 retailers across the country, described the full reopening of non-essential retail as a “landmark day for the industry”, especially the sector’s 280,000 employees.
The organisation’s managing director Duncan Graham said retailers had eased back into trading last week with the resumption of click-and-collect services and appointment-only shopping but now retailers were getting the opportunity “to fully welcome shoppers back into their stores after a long, hard four-and-a-half months of the latest lockdown”.
Mr Graham said the easing of restrictions was different this time around: “Thankfully, our vaccination rollout is picking up pace and we have had strong assurances from the Government that we are not going backwards.
“Finally, this means that retailers can plan for the weeks and months ahead with the sort of confidence that has been missing for over a year.”
He added: “As always, shoppers can be confident that retailers are continuing to uphold the highest standards of safety for everyone in their stores, and we would urge shoppers to be patient when visiting shops once again.
“Retailers are prepared and fully stocked for the full reopening and cannot wait to get trading properly once again.”
“The retail industry will undoubtedly need major financial support from the Government in the months ahead, but for now businesses are relieved to begin trading once more without restrictions.”
From May 17th all remaining retail can reopen. Even if you are vaccinated, remember to stay safe and protect each other. #StaySafe #thinkoutdoors— MerrionStreet.ie (@merrionstreet) May 15, 2021
➡️Keep 2 metres apart
➡️Wear your mask
➡️Use hand sanitiser
➡️Keep spaces well ventilatedhttps://t.co/geCmY3jxsl pic.twitter.com/HKxNeIwRQD
The Government has appealed for people to stay safe as restrictions ease.
Junior Business Minister Damien English said he was delighted for retailers and paid tribute to the “resilience and patience” of business owners and workers in the sector.
“It has been a long road and I want to thank those in the sector who have worked closely with myself and the Government over the last few months to make this day possible,” said Mr English, who has responsibility for the retail sector.
“I urge everyone to shop local and to support their local retailers in the coming days and months ahead.
“I am mindful that safe shopping is as important as ever and shoppers need to adhere to public health guidelines; to wear a mask in store and in busy outdoor areas for your safety and for that of other shoppers and staff, even if you have been vaccinated.
“Remember also to keep a two metre distance from others and to use hand sanitisers on entering and leaving any shop.”
Mr English added: “I am sure that the public are keen to support our retailers as they begin to trade again after a really tough few months. We must remain vigilant in the fight against Covid.
“Public health and safety must always be paramount but with caution and by working together we can once again enjoy the old normality.”
While Mr English described the reopening of retail as “a positive development”, he said he was conscious that restaurants, pubs, indoor family entertainment centres such as play centres and bowling alleys are not yet allowed to resume operations.
The Government began easing restrictions earlier this month when all construction was allowed to resume on May 4.
Last Monday saw the ban on inter-county travel lifted while some of the limitations on indoor and outdoor social gatherings were also eased.
Museums, galleries and libraries opened and the number of people allowed to attend religious services, including weddings and funerals, increased to 50.
Indoor wedding receptions are now capped at six people and 15 for outdoor celebrations.
As of May 10 three households, or up to six people from individual households, can meet outdoors, including in private gardens.
Vaccinated households can also meet with an unvaccinated household indoors – without masks or social distancing – provided they are not at risk of severe illness and there are no more than three households present.
A further easing of restrictions is due next month, subject to public health guidance at the time.
As of June 2, hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and hostel accommodation are due to reopen but services must be restricted to overnight guests and residents.
Outdoor dining for restaurants and bars for groups of up to six people is due to resume on June 7.
The maximum number of guests at a wedding reception is due to increase to 25.
Households will be permitted to have visitors from one other household inside their home.
Gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres are due to be permitted to have individual training, while outdoor sports matches can also be played, without spectators.