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Coronavirus: Light at end of tunnel brightens as Northern Ireland retailers of non-essential items begin to lift the shutters from today

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As coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease, car sales showrooms will benefit

As coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease, car sales showrooms will benefit

As coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease, car sales showrooms will benefit

Today is a landmark in the reopening of the economy as a wide range of retailers raise their shutters.

The Executive is permitting retailers of non-essential items such as homewares, electrical goods and cars to open up.

But they should only open where they have large floor areas and where they have street access, or direct access from outdoors in a retail park.

In the wording of the Executive, opening is permitted of "non-food retail with lower frequency retail activities and/or larger store areas such as those selling household electrical appliances, mobile phones and furniture stores... this will only apply where outlets have direct street access or direct access within a retail park".

The rules are open to interpretation, and at first reading seemed to exclude outlets in shopping centres, which are usually indoors. But department store giant Debenhams has said it is reopening three local stores, all within shopping centres - at Rushmere in Craigavon, The Quays in Newry and CastleCourt in Belfast.

All three have access from outdoors.

Car retailers like Trust Ford and Isaac Agnew are also opening their showrooms.

And homegrown retailers like Menarys is pulling up the shutters and getting back to business.

The department store group is opening around 12 of its 17 shops in town centres here on the basis that they sell homewares.

And department store Wardens in Newtownards will open again from tomorrow.

Other national chains such as Currys, Argos and sofa giant DFS will also be back in business today.

However, for now purely fashion stores are not reopening, on the basis of not being deemed a 'low frequency retail' category by the Executive.

Belfast Telegraph