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'It's great to be back out and about' - shoppers' joy as stores back open

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People queue outside Brown Thomas

People queue outside Brown Thomas

People queue outside Brown Thomas

There were no handbags at dawn as hundreds of shoppers abided by social distance queuing for their first foray into Dublin department stores Brown Thomas and Arnotts in nearly three months.

Staff in both stores wore masks and some in Arnotts on Henry Street even donned visors as they eagerly awaited shoppers who had formed queues from early on in anticipation of the stores reopening.

Trade was steady on the first day of business since their closure in mid-March due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The doorman at Brown Thomas greeted shoppers while cameras counted how many customers walked into the store - to ensure a minimal number at any one time.

Door staff also welcomed customers at Arnotts and one smiling worker offered a mother and her young daughter hand sanitiser as soon as they stepped inside.

Lily Smith (16) was one of the first in the queue at Brown Thomas.

The schoolgirl was celebrating her birthday and mother Lucy was treating her to a Prada bag.

The mother and daughter, from Swords, north Dublin, were delighted to be out for the first time in the city centre since lockdown.

"We're really looking forward to shopping," Ms Smith said. "Lockdown didn't bother me too much.

Browse

"We were able to do food shopping online and Lily was able to keep in touch with friends on the phone, so we got through fine."

Mother Mary Burns (58) and daughter Fiona (23), from Castlebar, Co Mayo, were in the city for official business and decided to pop into Brown Thomas for a browse.

Both were among the few customers seen wearing face masks, and Ms Burns said she'd come prepared for her trip with gloves and hand sanitiser too.

"We like Brown Thomas," Ms Burns said. "We like make-up. You never know, we'll look at purses and bags. It's lovely to see people out and about.

"It's good after being locked down for some time. We had family time at home and now I'm working at home. Fiona has lost her job but hopefully we'll get back to normal soon.

"I think people are waiting to see how things pan out before they come out. Some people are still nervous, especially older people, but for the population of Ireland we haven't had that many cases and now I feel more confident to come out."

One father, who had just bought his teenage son a hooded top in Arnotts, praised the store for offering "really good" service.

"The staff are so friendly and happy to be back," he said.

"It's great to be back out and about. They made it seem normal without being too clinical, which was important.

Rethink

"I didn't wear a face mask because the Government advice hasn't been clear but I'll rethink it if we are told to wear them."

Brown Thomas managing director Donald McDonald said: "The amount of people on a wet Wednesday that have taken the initiative to come to Brown Thomas is very positive, I'm quite pleased."

He said he "hoped" this was a sign that people "want to get back to normality", but added: "We are very conscious of the safety element."

The store would, he said, be "ensuring that safety". Customers can pre-book visits to the two stores via their websites and shoppers can also join virtual queues, receiving texts when they reach the top of the queue.

Brown Thomas is operating a policy of encouraging customers not to touch items unless they have to.

It was noticeable yesterday how shoppers were so conscious of Covid-19 that they were even avoiding touching the hand rests on escalators.

Clothes are being placed in quarantine for 24 hours after each wear, and garments are steamed and cleaned.

New technology will allow shoppers to virtually try makeup on.

There is also a click and collect area in the Brown Thomas car park to allow customers to remain in their car to pick up items.

Some dressing rooms are sectioned off to ensure social distancing, while only a small number of customers are permitted into the store's toilets at any one time.