Thousands of people formed socially distanced queues from early morning to shop in businesses across the country that reopened on Monday as part of the first phase of the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
Hardware stores, farmers’ markets, garden centres, electrical stores and opticians were among those resuming trade.
The Government said that homeware stores, originally listed in phase one of the roadmap, may not reopen. However, hardware stores that sell some homeware can reopen.
Construction workers return to sites while people queue around the block to get into hardware and electrical shops as Ireland reaches the first phase of the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions today. #Covid19Ireland pic.twitter.com/YKsfa8ktkw— Ãine McMahon (@AineMcMahon) May 18, 2020
At Blanchardstown shopping centre in Dublin, hundreds of people queued from 8am to go into hardware store Woodies DIY and electrical store DID electrical.
Security personnel manned the queues, while staff wore gloves and protective shields.
Stores operated a one-way system for entering and exiting, while shoppers were told to use hand sanitiser before going in.
Woodies has spent more than half a million euro on Covid-19 safety measures in preparation for their reopening.
Some of these safety measures include sanitation stations at the front of every store, where all customers must sanitise their hands before entering, even if already wearing gloves.
Stores have perspex screens on all checkouts, while staff wear face shields, masks and t-shirts reminding everyone to stay 2 metres apart.
Haven't seen Blanch this busy since Christmas eve.— Ãine McMahon (@AineMcMahon) May 18, 2020
To quote one man in the queue - "Sure, isn't it great to be out." pic.twitter.com/Ug4tMIxNG5
Declan Ronayne, chief executive of Woodie’s, said stores have gradually been restocked over the last two months as the supply chain has steadily increased.
“It feels like the right time to reopen and we are delighted to do so.
“Having spent much of the lockdown further enhancing our social distancing and hygiene measures, we are pleased to reopen our stores and to do so with confidence for the safety of our customers and colleagues.
“It has been a difficult period for everyone and we believe DIY and gardening has an important role to play in the mental health of most of us who remain largely confined to our homes and gardens.
“Our stocks are more than sufficient to meet ongoing demand so there is no reason to rush to your local store or to bulk buy.
“In that way we can ensure the safest possible DIY shopping environment for everyone.”
From today onwards, up to 4 people from different households can meet outdoors while keeping 2m apart.— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) May 18, 2020
However, to stop the spread of #COVID19, you should still try to limit your number of contacts as much as possible. #HoldFirm #WashYourHands #StayAtHome pic.twitter.com/kNdjIIAeaH
Car showrooms reopened with social distancing measures in place, as did motor and bicycle repair shops.
Brian Cooke, director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) said the size of dealerships relative to footfall lends itself to social distancing.
“Sanitisation and other measures have been put in place for both premises and vehicles, and should give customers reassurance.
“Increased opening will allow members to contribute to their local economies in terms of business activity and supporting employment.”
Meanwhile, Retail Excellence Ireland called for additional government assistance for retailers, including a commercial rent grant equivalent to 60% of the rent payable during the period of emergency, a 12-month local authority rates waiver, and 0% loans for all affected business.
Chief executive of REI, David Fitzsimons, said Monday marks the first steps on the road to recovery.
“Irish retailers are ingenious and resourceful and have invested great effort in planning for today to ensure they open safely for their customers and colleagues.
“As consumers come out of hibernation to purchase non-essential items, we remind everyone of the importance of our local independent stores. Please use them as we don’t want to lose them.”
Meanwhile, garden centres nationwide have seen a surge in demand for seeds, plants and garden furniture, as the country prepares for a summer at home.
A Co Monaghan garden centre has been busy preparing for its reopening with signage and screens in place to protect customers.
Claire McParland, who works at family-run business O’Neill’s Garden Centre outside Glaslough in Co Monaghan, said the team were a little nervous as they welcomed customers back on Monday.
“We wanted to make sure that it all went well and ensure everybody adheres to the rules, but so far it’s been good,” she said.
“In the gardening industry there is a lot of older people and they are nervous too, so we have a priority slot for them to help them feel comfortable.
“We are still doing a collection service for people who don’t want to get out as we know there are people who won’t be able to come, so we want to help them.”
A one-way system is in place in the garden centre, with signs reminding customers to keep two metres apart.
The centre permits four customers inside at any one time and screens have been erected at tills.
Ms McParland added: “We are hoping all will go well because we appreciate that people are a bit nervous so we just want to reassure them that restrictions are in place and that includes customers and staff.”
The items in high demand include bedding plants, hanging baskets and window boxes.
Ms McParland said that they may have to make further changes as people’s shopping habits adapt.
“We are still getting phone orders as some people just don’t feel comfortable coming out yet,” she added. “It’s a process that we can change according to our customer needs.”