Towns and cities fall quiet as non-essential retailers shut shop

Primark, like hundreds hundreds of non-essential retailers, has closed for amid the coronavirus outbreak
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE north's cities, towns and villages will fall silent for the foreseeable future as thousands of retail businesses pull down the shutters amid growing concerns about safe social distancing.

As calls grow for tougher restrictions such as only allowing food stores and pharmacies to remain open, multinational chains as well as smaller independents opted to voluntarily close their doors.

The trend started on Sunday night when Primark and McDonald's, who between them have more that 80 outlets and upwards of 2,000 workers in Northern Ireland, took the decision to close to keep customers safe.

Late on Sunday evening, Nando's said it would be closing more than 400 restaurants in the UK. Other fast food restaurants such as Burger King and KFC remain open but have changed to "take away" only.

Clothing chains including Kurt Geiger, Topshop and New Look have also announced mass store closures, and yesterday afternoon Irish-owned independent sports retailer Life Style Sports said it was taking the difficult decision to close all of its nationwide stores and will now focus its energy on online retail.

"While our efforts may not fully rescue the loss of sales during this incredibly difficult trading environment, it highlights the importance of operating a balanced omni-channel retailing model where online plays an ever-increasing role," the company said in a statement.

HMV closed its stores for trade at the end of Sunday, although customers could still order through the website, with Waterstones also closing its doors at the end of trade on Monday.

Card Factory decided to temporarily close all of its shops just three hours after announcing on Monday that it expects to "begin selectively closing stores".

In a statement to investors, Card Factory said: "Further to our earlier announcement, we have decided to close temporarily all of our shops from the end of business today.

"We will keep this under continuous review and update further in due course."

The closures, though, are extending beyond the high street, as yesterday the Agnew Group said it was closing all its car showrooms from 6pm on Tuesday.

In a statement the company said: "We will work together as a team over the next few days to complete all booked service work and support the sales teams by preparing the final customer deliveries.

"It is anticipated that the business premises will be totally closed towards the end of the week. Once this has been completed, certain workshops may remain open to support essential workers. We will also continue to enhance our online retail offering."

And the owners of Barry's Amusements confirmed that it will not re-open for the Easter season as previously announced, but say they will review the situation and advise accordingly.

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