BUSINESSES in Cork are “excited” to reopen today under the Government’s roadmap to reopening the country after “a long five months”.
Under the latest roadmap, all retail can open from today which will see many businesses in Cork open the shutters.
From June 2, accommodation services can reopen, and from June 7, restaurants and bars can resume outdoor services with groups limited to six people.
Indoor dining is set to reopen later in the summer.
Retail Excellence, the largest representative body for the retail industry in Ireland, described today as a “landmark day for the industry”.
“We eased back into trading with click and collect services and appointment-only shopping last week, and now retailers get the opportunity to fully welcome shoppers back into their stores,” said Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence.
He said this easing of restrictions was different to those that had happened before.
“Thankfully, our vaccination rollout is picking up pace and we have had strong assurances from the Government that we are not going backwards.”
Managing director of Vibes and Scribes Bookstore on Lavitt’s Quay and Vibes and Scribes Crafts on Bridge St, Joan Lucey, said that she has been “excited and nervous at the same time” ahead of reopening but that she “cannot wait to welcome back customers and to do what we do best in looking after them face to face”.
“It’s about being back to some sort of normality and we’re moving forward and hopefully starting to put Covid-19 behind us.
“It’s not just about the business, it’s all the normal connection with people again and the thing is our business is both the books and craft supplies.
“It’s a hobby for people, people aren’t coming in because they have to buy a book or they have to buy crafts supplies, it’s their pleasure, it’s their escape so we’ll have people excited too and it’ll be a positive experience,” she said.
She said that a lot of work has gone into restocking, organising displays and decorating the windows ahead of reopening and that there is “new fabric, new crafting supplies, and new books” after a full revamp of the bookstore.
Ms Lucey said that this time around, people are used to mask-wearing and social distancing and that people’s shopping experiences will be more comfortable than at Christmas when there was more of a rush to buy presents.
“We have a lot of long-standing loyal customers and when we opened after the last lockdown, they couldn’t get in fast enough so I think we will have a lot of people and they are all more than welcome.
“This time people who aren’t as comfortable with the crowds can come in earlier or in their own time a week later, there’s no big rush.
“We’ve been looking after people online anyway but the people who want to come in and have a look and feel around the place will be in and then the people who want to take their time can too,” she said.
Evanne Ó Caoimh of Unbound said that “words cannot describe” the feeling of being back in business and being able to welcome customers back in person after a difficult few months.
“We have been busy. We have put a new stationary wall in with displays and invested in a couple of ranges for that because with people working from home people are getting back to writing.
“One of our bestsellers is the Some Lines a Day notebook where people put a few lines for every day of the year for five years and look back and compare which is a lovely idea at this crazy time."
She said that it is great to see the shop “looking lovely again” after months of using it as a stock room for online sales.
“In the basement area, we have converted the old stockroom into a showroom so we’ve got a lot of quirky pieces of furniture which we never had before and put them all down for an inspirational area so I’m really excited about it,” she said.
Ms Ó Caoimh said online shopping is not the same as shopping instore.
“Online is not the same and a lot of people like to browse and get inspired.
“Online sales were up and down, we had a really good Mother’s Day online but the last six weeks have been really tough because we don’t have any season, normally it would be wedding season but there has been nothing,” Ms Ó Caoimh said.
She said that people have been really good to support local with the return of click- and-collect shopping recently also and looks forward to seeing her customers in person again.
As shops reopen today, Duncan Graham of Retail Excellence, said that retailers are prepared and fully stocked for the full reopening.
“The retail industry will undoubtedly need major financial support from the Government in the months ahead, but for now businesses are relieved to begin trading once more without restrictions,” he said