Northern Ireland news

High streets experience 'storm before the calm' of Covid lockdown

People out in Belfast to shop on the last day before lockdown. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Marie Louise McConville

TOWN and city centres experienced the "storm before the calm" yesterday as shoppers descended on stores before the latest Covid lockdown.

Non-essential retail is closing for the next two weeks, although supermarkets, homeware stores and garden centres are among those allowed to remain open.

Other businesses can also continue to provide click and collect services.

At Cityside Retail Park in Belfast, stores remaining open include B&M, Home Bargains, Asda Living, Poundland, Tesco and Boots, while New Look will be click and collect only.

At CastleCourt in the city centre, Argos, The Entertainer, O’Neills, Matalan and The Perfume Shop will among those also operating via click and collect.

But with big names such as Primark and Smyths among those closing their doors to Christmas shoppers until December 11, high streets were busy yesterday as people sought to beat the lockdown deadline.

Black Friday promotions added to the rush.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, described the scenes as the "storm before the calm".

"It was absolutely predictable that we would see significant numbers and a big surge in shopping this week given the large section of the retail sector which will be closed down but we will face this challenge on the 11th of December," he said.

"We have some positives. We have a significant amount of independent food retailers that will remain open. We will have the click and collect by many retailers which will give shoppers a few more options to continue their Christmas shopping".

Mr Roberts said the next two weeks would be "an incredibly tough and difficult time for independent retailers in particular".

"There is this frustration today from fashion retailers, book sellers, businesses that sell toys. They have to close but yet they see the big supermarkets selling all these things across the two week period.

"These next few weeks, it's a matter of survival."

Meanwhile, a bus company in Derry has cancelled an advertised shopping trip to Dundrum Shopping Centre in Dublin.

GD Tours had offered the day trip at a cost of £25 per person on December 5.

However, the company said yesterday that "after double checking travel restrictions it's not possible at this time".

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