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Late-night shopping planned to help deal with Christmas panic



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Shops will be allowed to open as late as they want in the weeks leading up to Christmas, under plans being considered by the Government.

Major retail outlets have been calling for later opening hours after lockdown ends, to deal with an expected rush on the shops.

It has now emerged the Government is actively considering a plan to allow retailers keep their doors open later to, allow customers prepare for the festive period.

Minister of State for Retail Businesses Damien English said he is working with local authorities and other State agencies to ensure retailers can safely meet the demand of shoppers during the Christmas weeks.

"Many retailers say they will need longer hours, and we will consider this in the context of our plans for December," Minister English told the Irish Independent.

"Retailers engaging with the Retail Forum have so far asked for longer hours but not specifically 24-hour opening, although that has happened in the past," he added.

Negotiations are ongoing but it is understood local authority staff may be asked to monitor queues and public spaces in the main shopping areas in cities and towns over Christmas.

The Government is eager to allow retailers, including those in shopping centres, open in December but the medical data on the coronavirus will decide what measures they take.

The Department of Business is in talks with retailers, local authorities and planning agencies about drafting a plan for Christmas.

In most cities, shops can open as late as they want but in more suburban areas they may be limited by local authority rules on opening hours. Waivers of planning laws may also be needed to allow some businesses to open later than usual.

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There is consideration being given to whether it is safer to allow shops open later so as to avoid large queues building up. However, there are also concerns about the impact of people congregating outside shops and inside shopping centres when the virus is still spreading in communities.

The Government is also running a 'shop local and shop safe' campaign encouraging retailers to offer click and collect mail order and phone shopping.

However, they also realise some people do not have the financial resources to shop earlier, or online, and will need shops to be opened to ensure they can buy gifts for loved ones.

It comes following calls from retailers for leeway to be given after restrictions are lifted.

Earlier this month, the head of Penneys, Primark CEO George Weston, said extended opening hours would mean that shoppers would be kept apart from one another more easily and make up for lost sales.

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group representing the retail sector, has also previously called on the Government to unwind restrictions on retail trading in advance of December.

It said this was in response to reduced Covid case numbers and "the need to manage Christmas trading safely over the coming weeks".

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