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Long queues and face masks - welcome to the 'new normal' world of shopping

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Larragh Lawlor (5) with her mum Naoise, Katie Blanche and Orlagh Carty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Larragh Lawlor (5) with her mum Naoise, Katie Blanche and Orlagh Carty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Larragh Lawlor (5) with her mum Naoise, Katie Blanche and Orlagh Carty. Photo: Frank McGrath

It was 'business as unusual' yesterday as shoppers came back to the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin following Covid-19 lockdown.

After a busy start, things settled into an air of relaxed calm and there were no queues visible outside shops by 11.30am.

The car park had a huge number of available spaces, and the first visible sign that there had been a shutdown at all was a fine layer of dust on two spotlit Hyundai cars that are being promoted at a marketing stand in the car park.

With hand sanitiser dispensers at the lifts and in the shops, and guidance on pedestrian traffic flow and social distancing, the popular centre was settling into life in what has become known as the 'new normal'.

Missed

Shoppers are now used to longer queues at checkouts, face masks and card payments, and talking to staff through plastic screens.

"We're glad to be back, we've really missed it," said Naoise Lawlor (28), from Firhouse, who was shopping with her daughter Larragh (5) and friends Orlagh Carty (28) and Katie Blanche (22).

Orlagh said: "We haven't had to queue anywhere. To be honest, we thought there would be more people here. It's quite quiet."

Zara store director Christie Forbes said she, too, thought there would be more shoppers as the centre opened up again.

"People are being cautious I think. They are asking about face masks and things," she said.

"Maybe people are waiting until the weekend to come out here and we will see numbers then."

Another trader glad to be back behind the counter was David Roberts, manager at Weir & Sons.

"We had initially been told it would be August 10 before we could open, but that date got moved back and we're delighted," he said.

Brother and sister Warren and Zara Egan, from Firhouse, were in the centre to catch up on some retail therapy.

Zara turned 21 last week so older brother Warren (23) was out to treat her.

"There were so many vacant spaces in the car park I wondered was the centre open at all," said Warren.

Centre director Don Nugent was walking around to monitor how all the new procedures and protocols were bedding-in.

Settle

"We're happy to let people settle in, and it will take a while for people to get their confidence back, including the retailers themselves," he said.

"We have noticed the people that are here are here to shop, not browse, and we are letting retailers decide when to open."

Meanwhile, at Kildare Village, there was marked interest in sporty, leisure brands like Asics, North Face, Puma and Nike.

On arrival, shoppers passed through a mini marquee with a thermal scanner.

Visitors and boutique staff had their temperature checked, which had to be below 37.5C to gain access.

Once inside, customers could shop at some stores by joining a 'virtual queue' outside, after which they received a text and could track the waiting time.