Northern Ireland news

Buzz back in Belfast as shoppers returned to in their droves

Shoppers queue outside Primark in Belfast yesterday. Picture by Mark Marlow/PA Wire

IT was probably the biggest live crowd they have played to for more than four months.

Taking up their spot at Corn Market, a group of buskers had a captive audience in Belfast city centre yesterday as shoppers returned to the high street in their droves.

Their music could be heard far and wide as people took their place in queues outside stores throughout the city.

Long lines of shoppers were visible at most stores, with popular outlets such as Primark, Zara and Stradivarius, garnering the largest number of customers.

With stores opening for the first time since December, spirits were high among shoppers with most appearing unfazed by the lengthy queues snaking from the entrance doors or the additional safety measures that have been put in place.

There was no doubt that Primark would have won the prize for the most visited store of the day, with the queue at its Castle Street outlet at one point reaching the whole way down Queen Street.

Many had been eager to grab a bargain and had arrived in the city centre from around 5.30am. The store opened earlier than planned at 7am with a large majority of customers soon emerging laden down with bags of shopping.

There had been speculation that police had been called to the scene to manage the crowds, but a PSNI spokesman said officers were in the city "on normal patrol".

One woman commented that it was "brilliant to see Belfast buzzing again", while another added that it was "good people were back out supporting the city centre".

Paul Marchant from Primark said: "We are so delighted to welcome back our customers to stores this morning. It has been an exceptionally busy morning so far, but we are very confident in the safety measures we have in place.

"We know customers are very keen to visit and there are long queues in some stores, but overall customers have been in good spirits."

While most businesses are hoping that the lockdown closure will translate into a spending spree, for others the shutters remained closed.

Since the last time the shops were open shortly before Christmas, some high street retailers such as Oasis, Miss Selfridge and DW Sports, have closed down for good.

While it was a dismal reminder that the high street will never be the same again after caving under the pressure of the pandemic, the buzz around Belfast city centre yesterday provided another glimpse of the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.

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Northern Ireland news