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Coronavirus hitting retail as stores close in Belfast's Victoria Square


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Several stores have closed in Victoria Square in Belfast

Several stores have closed in Victoria Square in Belfast

Several stores have closed in Victoria Square in Belfast

Some of the best known high street names are shutting their doors indefinitely as retailers seek to cope with reduced footfall amid measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The Apple store at Victoria Square in Belfast city centre has closed for business as part of the firm's global strategy to close all outlets in response to Covid-19, as has some neighbouring shops including Urban Outfitters, Hollister, Vans, Inglots and McCombs.

Cinema chains Odeon Cinema and Vue are also shutting after Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised against social gatherings.

Victoria Square said that its "priority at all times is the health and safety of our customers and our employees".

A spokesman said: "Victoria Square shopping centre remains open and we are encouraging all visitors to follow the Government's advice to frequently wash their hands and practice social distancing measures.

"We are continuing with our stringent cleaning regime throughout the centre and we are also ensuring that all hand dispensers are fully stocked with anti-bacterial solution.

"We are working with all of our stores throughout this challenging period to maintain our consistently high standards and we will continue to follow advice from our local health authority and the World Health Organisation."

The Boulevard in Banbridge and The Junction in Antrim both said that "the schemes remain open at this time as per government guidelines".

However, the Nike stores at both complexes and Asics store at The Junction are both closed until further notice.

Omniplex Cinema has a cinema at both The Junction and the Outlet but has closed all of its cinemas in Northern Ireland until March 29.

It is not yet known how the outbreak is affecting other big shopping centres in Northern Ireland, such as CastleCourt in Belfast and Rushmere in Craigavon.

Both shopping complexes were contacted but did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile Retail NI has welcomed Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon's decision to relax delivery drivers' hours.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the organisation, said: "This would be a temporary relaxation of drivers' hours to ensure that our members' stores can restock faster to keep up with the exceptional demand from consumers due to Covid-19.

"We fully appreciate that this will be a difficult and challenging time for delivery drivers and hope that it will only be for a short duration of this emergency.

"We repeat our message again to the general public. Shop responsibly. Do not panic buy and stockpile as you will leave other people without essential items.

"Retail NI also asks that you think about the most vulnerable in our society and suggests that shoppers donate goods to food banks."

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Belfast Telegraph