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Tills ringing: Shoppers up before dawn to begin rush for Christmas gifts


Sandra Hutchinson and her daughter Tammy (11) beat the rush at Penneys in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Sandra Hutchinson and her daughter Tammy (11) beat the rush at Penneys in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Sandra Hutchinson and her daughter Tammy (11) beat the rush at Penneys in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Almost €6m was spent every hour as non-essential Irish retailers re-opened after the Level 5 Covid-19 lockdown and scrambled to make up for lost sales.

Shoppers were up before dawn to stake their spot at the top of the queue as stores around the country reopened after six weeks of lockdown.

Most stores and shopping centres will now operate extended opening hours, right up until December 24.

It is estimated €52m a day will now be spent at the shops in the run-up to Christmas as consumers satisfy pent-up demand.

A queue of around 200 dedicated shoppers had formed outside Penneys at the Blanchardstown Centre in Dublin at 6.30am yesterday.

Among them were Sandra Hutchinson and her daughter Tammy (11) who had been in the centre since 4am to bag a few essentials.

Having driven up from Kildare, Sandra said she missed Penneys while it was closed.

“I thought the queue would be massive so I left really early, now I feel a bit foolish,” she said with a laugh.

Catherine Brady from Clonee arrived at Blanchardstown Centre at 5.45am.

“I only want a few bits and pieces but I was afraid there’d be a queue so I came early because I have to be in work at 9am,” she told the Irish Independent. “I’ll be straight to Dunnes after here.”

Asked if she was concerned about the country moving from Level 5 to Level 3, Catherine said she thought that it would be fine.

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Others weren’t so sure.

“I think we’ll be back to lockdown in a few weeks if people go mad over Christmas,” said Chloe Mulholland from Blanchardstown.

“I’m delighted to get back out again, and if we are smart we can be safe,” she said.

Meanwhile, with their faces pressed against the windows of Harvey Nichols in Dundrum Town Centre, two designer-clad ladies in high heels couldn’t hide their disappointment that it was yet to open.

But the new Guinness Storehouse pop-up shop was quite the magnet. “I’d love a Guinness glass but the question is, where am I going to get the creamy pint to put into it?” one man said good humouredly as he stood guard over a puddle of shopping bags.

In the city centre, Bewley’s Cafe staged an impromptu celebration to honour the people behind the reopening of Grafton Street.

Retail staff, street cleaners and postal workers were treated to free teas, coffees and famous Bewley’s buns to mark the thoroughfare’s reopening after the latest lockdown.

Meanwhile love was in the air at John Farrington Antiques on Dublin’s Drury Street.

John had barely opened the door when a customer called in requesting to see a vintage diamond ring.

“There is huge interest in unusual vintage engagement rings,” said John, who famously sold Adam Clayton a diamond ring when the U2 guitarist got engaged to supermodel Naomi Campbell in the 1990s. “Someone has already purchased a beautiful vintage ring this morning.”

“We started to post our rings on Instagram during lockdown and there has been a colossal amount of interest and enquiries.”

However, not everyone left it for shops to re-open yesterday to start the process of chasing down a diamond for a Christmas proposal.

“We are three to four times as busy with engagement rings as we were last year,” reports Chupi Sweetman-Durney of Irish jewellery company Chupi.

“We’ve had our busiest November on record, it’s been absolutely bonkers.”

Retail Excellence boss Duncan Graham said it was critical that consumers support local traders.

“Retailers need a strong bounce-back – they need people to spend money like they did after the first lockdown was eased.

But he warned that the retail environment is very turbulent, as evidenced by the recent high street closures in the UK

While shops were busy for the first day of reopening, many customers started their Christmas shopping earlier than normal this year because of fears about the availability of goods.

They are also worried about delivery times.

People expect to buy nearly half of their Christmas presents online according to the survey conducted by Censuswide for PayPal.

Six out of 10 consumers say they are making more of an effort to buy locally and from smaller retailers because of the impact the pandemic is having on local businesses.

The respondents said they expect to spend an average of €541 each.

Spending varies by county with the biggest spenders in Louth at €1,079, followed by Westmeath at €870, and Leitrim, with an average spend of €852.

The survey found that one third of consumers are Christmas shopping earlier this year due to lockdown.

This translates to approximately 1.2 million people, PayPal said.

As well as concerns over the availability of items and worries about delivery times, people are shopping earlier are doing so in order to avoid the stress of last-minute buying.

More than a quarter admitted they would prefer not to visit shops in person when they open.

Overall, it seemed retail workers did not feel “swamped” as the second lockdown lifted.

Siptu retail and wholesale industrial organiser Myles Worth said the crowds were not as bad as the last time restrictions eased.

“There was no big rush ,” he said. “A lot of shops are going to open late and I don’t think people want to queue out in the cold.

“It was nothing like the summer. People know they have the full month to shop.”

He said people are nervous about public transport and the fact 50,000 office staff are working remotely is also having an impact. However, he believes this could change as people may have stayed away because they were worried it would be too busy.

Chief executive of Dublin Town, Richard Guiney, described it as a steady but not spectacular day for the centre.

“I think it will get busier as the week goes on and at the weekend,” he said.

He believes shopping centres will be busier this year: “Just 20pc of city centre customers travel by car, compared with 80pc at shopping centres, and public transport is at just 50pc capacity.”

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