Level 5 restrictions bring concern for Cork retailers 

Level 5 restrictions bring concern for Cork retailers 

A quiet afternoon in Cork City Centre yesterday. Picture Dan Linehan

As Cork moves to Level 5 restrictions along with the rest of the country, there are concerns for the many retailers in the city and county who will be forced to shut their doors once again.

In a letter addressed to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar ahead of the decision, Retail Excellence, a not-for-profit company which supports Irish retailers, addressed the worries of those employed in the “single largest employer in Ireland” ahead of the Christmas period.

After first closing her doors in March, before reopening in June, managing director of Vibes and Scribes, Joan Lucey, is preparing to shut for the second time in seven months.

Ms Lucey echoed Retail Excellence’s concern for the Christmas season.

“It’s a really difficult decision to make, moving to a level 5 lockdown, it’s not an easy decision for anyone to make but we’re just going to abide by the rules.

“I also know that because we have a very active online shop, it’s easier for me to say that,” she said.

Ms Lucey said that she feels particularly for the businesses who do not have an online presence and said that she is grateful that she can continue to trade online as the country enters further restrictions.

Joan Lucey and Yvonne O’Connell putting together adult and children’s craft kits for online orders at Vibes and Scribes, Bridge Street, Cork last March. Picture Dan Linehan
Joan Lucey and Yvonne O’Connell putting together adult and children’s craft kits for online orders at Vibes and Scribes, Bridge Street, Cork last March. Picture Dan Linehan

She said that a lot of businesses are heavily dependent on a good December as it “pays the bills for the whole year” with 70% of retail profits typically made in the Christmas period.

The Vibes and Scribes team has upped its game with a book offering to become available online in the coming week which Ms Lucey said is “great to be able to offer”.

Asked if she would reopen in the run-up to Christmas following a level 5 lockdown, she said that with the best will in the world she would open “because the customers would want it”.

“Unless there was a really high incidence or staff were too nervous, I would have to decide at the time, but we would want to look after our customers.”

Ms Lucey also reiterated a point made by Retail Excellence in its letter to the Tánaiste that smaller businesses have been “hugely impacted in recent years by the growth of online retailers outside the State” and reminded people to buy local as a means of supporting local businesses.

“A lot of people do buy outside of Ireland, mainly clothes and cosmetics I would say. It would be good if they could remember to buy within Ireland because we need to support each other.

“I had a friend whose father was in retail before him, this would have been over 70 years’ ago in rural Ireland, and he used to say, ‘spend your money locally and you’ll have a better chance of getting it back’.

“I’d always remember that and I’d always be conscious of that and spend locally,” she said.

Meanwhile, following an online meeting of Chambers Ireland and CEOs from across the network, Chamber leaders last night called on the Government to ensure the rapid delivery of supports for businesses impacted by this new wave of restrictions.

It said the Government must also ensure these restrictions serve their purpose in reducing spread of Covid-19.

“This time must be used wisely over the coming weeks to ensure the appropriate infrastructure is in place to support local economies to reopen safely and avoid succumbing to new closures into the new year,” the organisation said in a statement.

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