Full bags and empty wallets: €800m boost to economy expected as retail reopens

Full bags and empty wallets: €800m boost to economy expected as retail reopens

Shoppers Tiana and Aundrea Keegan and Michelle Collins in Cork city. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Non-essential retailers across the country opened their doors to customers this morning for the first time this year.

Business owners have described it as being like Christmas morning such is the excitement of being able to reopen after the lengthy closures.

A buzz has returned to the streets of towns and cities across the country.

Sissy Hughes, owner of The Forgotten Woman boutique in Athlone, Co Westmeath said that a sense of optimism has returned along with the familiar hustle and bustle.

Click-and-collect and shopping by appointment returned last week and many businesses were able to continue selling online throughout lockdown but for some today marks their first sales in over five months.

Retail Ireland expect sales over the next month to be 40% higher than pre-pandemic times due to pent up demand.

Based on the reopening experience last year, the group expect people to spend over €3bn on debit and credit cards in the next four weeks - this is €800m more than over the same period pre-pandemic.

While this bounce is very welcome, there is a concern among businesses that it will be followed by a sharp decrease in consumer spending and what this would mean for the longer-term outlook.


"The last few months have been incredibly stressful for retail businesses and their staff, but there is a real sense of optimism. We don’t expect to have to close down again," said Arnold Dillon, Director of Retail Ireland.

"Debt levels have increased significantly, and many rent disputes remain unresolved.

"Supporting the experience economy and breathing life back into our towns and cities must be a top priority over the coming weeks and months."


A recent consumer survey saw half of people say that they are buying more Irish goods and services than they were prior to Covid-19 and this is something retailers are hoping will continue as they seek to recoup some of their pandemic losses.

The same survey conducted by fibre broadband wholesaler, SIRO, showed that 82% of respondents who are buying Irish goods/services said they were buying Irish to support local business and 79% intend to continue to prioritise buying Irish after the pandemic has ended.

Retailers have been hard at work ensuring that they are reopening with all of the necessary health and safety measures in place.

Some stores are extending their opening hours in an effort to give everyone the chance to do their shopping while keeping the numbers in-store low.


People are being urged to be patient while shopping and to adhere to all public health guidelines.

While retailers are excited to be back at work, it is a big day for customers as well with many queuing up since early morning for the chance to purchase a few things from their favourite stores.

IKEA in Dublin have employed queue wardens to manage crowds with capacity control measures in place to ensure customers and staff alike feel safe.

IKEA’s UK and Ireland chief executive Peter Jelkeby, believes they will have a busy few weeks.

"It is early days. In the UK, we have seen a good bounce since we've opened and I expect that we still have a demand out there as we have seen during the pandemic that the home is more important than ever," said Mr Jelkeby.

Shoppers queue at Love Lisa in Cork city. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Shoppers queue at Love Lisa in Cork city. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar, welcomed businesses back this morning saying: "The very best of luck to all those opening their doors for the first time in a long time today.

"Let's stay safe and keep them open. Remember to try shop local if you can."

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."

'It feels like an end is coming'

Fresh peonies, roses and delphiniums were handed out to Brown Thomas customers as a parting gift on leaving the store.

And orderly queues stretched right around the block in Penneys but moved swiftly.

The heady smell of incense floated out of shops that had been shuttered since last year.

And shocked pigeons fluttered above Daunt Square, unused to this new stream of animated shoppers and cruising traffic.

UCC students Eimear Hawe and Ella Browne said that the reopening of non-essential retail had lifted the mood in the city.

"There's a great mood around. We're delighted to be back with the shops.

"It's definitely lifted the mood a whole load. It feels like an end is coming," Eimear said.

"And it feels like the start of the summer as well," Ella said.

Sisters Jill, Beth and Katie Casserly stopped for a break in the sun outside the Crawford Art Gallery after their first trip back to Penneys.

"We were so excited to be back," Katie said. "We did Penneys today and got loads! Probably too much!"

"We were up early, we came in for 9am," Beth said.

"We expected it to be a bit busier with queues but it was bearable, they weren't too long," Jill said.

We're looking forward to dressing up again, and socialising, we all need it after the last lockdown.

Joseph Higgins, Fiona O'Callaghan and Ciara O'Leary said that the city had transformed today.

"It was quiet during lockdown but there's a buzz back to it," Joseph said.

"It's exciting to be able to see the clothes and not look at them online," Fiona said.

Patricia O'Leary and her family left Penneys with significantly lighter wallets but many bags to restock their wardrobes.

"We were so happy to be back again. And staff were delighted to be open again too.

"We spent €500. There'll be no food for the week but we'll be well dressed and going nowhere! Cocktails at home!"

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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