‘No champagne’ yet for NI retailers as lockdown eases

Retailers won’t be “popping any champagne” when click-and-collect services open on Monday, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts has said.

Saturday, 10th April 2021, 8:11 am
Pacemaker Press 23-03-2021: Covid-19: One year on from lockdown businesses want clarity in Northern Ireland. Most businesses had no idea they would still be closed one year after the initial Covid-19 lockdown announcement. Some, like pubs that don't serve food for example, have only been open for three weeks of the last 12 months. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

Mr Roberts said there is no good reason for retailers deemed non-essential to have been prevented from operating collection services, and expressed hope that a date for full reopening could come out of a meeting of the Stormont Executive on Thursday.

The opening of click-and-collect services for non-essential retailers is just one of a range of measures to ease lockdown from Monday onwards.

Outdoor retail — such as vehicle sales, garden centres and car washes — are also set to reopen, while the number of people allowed to meet in a garden will increase to 10.

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Outdoor training for clubs affiliated with a sporting organisation will be allowed for up to 15 people.

Engaged couples can also view hotels and other wedding venues from Monday onwards.

But the easing of those restrictions on Monday pales in comparison with the more relaxed approach in England, where all shops, beer gardens, outdoor dining, gyms, zoos, theme parks, libraries, and community centres are set to open up.

On Thursday, the lockdown measures are set to be reviewed by the Stormont Executive.

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said she has submitted a paper for consideration that includes opening dates.

Mr Roberts said he believes retail will be included in the plans — which still have to be approved by the Executive

“My understanding is that it is there, along with close contact services, for consideration at the next Executive meeting and I hope the Executive agrees,” he told the News Letter.

As for the limited opening on Monday, he said: “It is a welcome step forward and hopefully it is a welcome step towards full reopening later this month.

“It is worth saying that click-and-collect should never have been prevented in the first place.”

He continued: “There will be no champagne corks being popped on Monday. There was no evidence whatsoever to show why it should have been stopped.”

Asked if he expected to see a rush of customers flocking to shops on Monday, Mr Roberts said: “It’s being done on the basis of appointment, so it should be done in an orderly way.

“If people stick to the rules, we’re not going to see massive queues down our high streets. I wouldn’t expect a mad rush.”