ENNIS-based Retail Excellence has issued an angry response to the time-frame for the return of non-essential retail services.
Duncan Graham described his organisations 2,000 members as being “deeply shocked and disappointed” at the government’s decision to defer the return of non-essential retail and Click and Collect services, which enable shoppers to order online and to pick up their goods in-store.
Earlier this week, Retail Excellence had launched a campaign advocating strongly for the return of click and collect services from next week. The group argued that, given the change in the seasons and the urgent need for families of small children to be able to buy clothing and shoes, that limited services should be allowed to return immediately.
There was huge alarm in the retail sector at Tuesday night’s announcement on the phased easing of lockdown. Taoiseach Micheál Martin, made it clear that that Click and Collect services will not resume until early May, with most ‘non-essential’ in-person retailing likely to remain closed until later next month.
Mr Graham, who heads up the organisation headquartered on Carmody Street, said the move to keep such services closed until next month will have a “profoundly negative” impact on the retail sector.
“Click and collect is a lifeline for businesses,” he said, “especially small independent traders, and this move will now seriously threaten the viability of hundreds of retailers around the country who were desperate for assistance and a definitive timeline from the government.”
Mr Graham, who has formerly headed up some of leading retail groups in Ireland and the UK said he felt the government’s policy on reopening was disproportionate.
“We are gravely concerned about the ramifications of a decision that is not proportionate to the threat we are facing from the virus, given click and collect is safe, is largely confined to local shopping, and will not lead to added movement of people especially considering travel limits are being eased,” he said.
Mr Graham added that the decision would cause widespread anger among the hundreds of thousands of retail workers, as click and collect is the first step back on the road to normal trading.
Depending on the numbers of Covid cases and other factors, the government is considering a phased return of non-essential retail starting on May 4. As part of that phased return, Click and Collect and outdoor retail, such as garden centres, would be the first to return to on-site activities.
“Towards the end of April, we will examine the situation and in the month of May we will look at a phased reopening of non-essential retail, personal services, all non-contact sports training, religious services, museums, galleries and libraries, and additional freedoms for those who are fully vaccinated,” the Taoiseach said.
“Towards the end of May, and depending on progress, we will look at the reopening of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses in the month of June. July and August will see more intensive vaccination and the vast majority of the population will have significant protection against the virus allowing for significant opportunities to re-open even further,” Micheál Martin added.
Senator Timmy Dooley said he thinks Click and Collect services should have been restored earlier.
“Click and Collect should be operational,” he said. “A lot of shops in Clare have invested in websites have good offerings and should be able to click and deliver. There are stores and if you ring them they will make arrangements, they’re very good.”
On Tuesday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar justified the decision to hold off on the return of Click and Collect and non-essential retail saying that it had been a factor in encouraging people to travel beyond their limits.
“I’d like to get to the point and I think we will get to this point, where non-essential retail will be able to open in May, which isn’t that far away. You know, click and collect and outdoor is first, then non-essential retail,” he said. “The issue we found when click and collect was operating is that it did result in a lot of movement and also, when the Gardai were asking people why they were leaving the 5km, it was often given as the reason. So, we weren’t able to allow that yet.”
On Wednesday, the government gave in to growing pressure from parents and medical professionals and said children’s shoes are an essential item. The Taoiseach said guidance is being finalised to allow shoe shops with fitting services to measure children’s feet. This will be allowed by appointment only.