PHASE 2 OF easing Covid-19 restrictions is due to kick in next Monday, should public health officials advise it’s safe to proceed to the next phase of Ireland’s roadmap.
Recent weeks have seen the country slowly move towards some semblance of normality during Phase 1 and, for the first time since lockdown measures were introduced, people will be permitted to visit their family in their respective homes.
People will be able to travel anywhere within Donegal from Monday while up to four people may visit another household for a short period if all goes to plan.
People will also be permitted to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving small group team sports training, where social distancing can be maintained.
Small retail outlets can reopen from Monday with small numbers of staff on the basis that the retailer can control the number of individuals that staff and customers interact with at any given time.
Brian McCormick Sports and Leisure
Brian McCormick Sports and Leisure has been a part of Letterkenny’s Main Street for the past twenty five years.
Staff were busy this week sanitising and cleaning down the shop and removing some rails in a bid to make the premises more spacious for customers.
“People need to feel comfortable and we’ll spend most of this week trying to all do all that we can to put in place a welcoming atmosphere for our customers.
“We’ve been closed since March so we don’t really know what to expect but I get the feeling that a lot of people are looking forward to coming out and getting around the shops once more. They might be a little bit more selective but, hopefully, we’ll still get our fair share of customers through the door,” Brian McCormick said.
Brian McCormick Sports and Leisure also offer an online service (BMC Sports) with next day delivery on orders placed before 3pm.
“We’ve received great support from the people of Donegal online. You tend to think of the national picture online but Donegal has more than played its part over the past three months.
“There’s been a big interest in fitness. There’s more people walking the roads and lane ways and they’re looking for comfortable things to wear. With the gyms all closed more people are also looking for mats, weights and resistance training equipment.
“It’s a very different time and we’ve been taking it day by day but we’ve been very lucky to have had an online presence,” he said.
Mourne Antiques and Jewellery and Amelia’s Irish Design and Gifts
Mourne Antiques and Jewellery and Amelia’s Irish Design and Gifts, both on Main Street, are owned and operated by Frances Spears.
The collections of Irish handmade crafts, unusual contemporary one-off items and unique handmade crafts on display throughout the two stores has been attracting visitors and locals alike to the Cathedral town in recent years.
“There will be a lot of health and safety procedures in place. We’ll have one-way systems which makes access to both premises that little bit easier. Some people are still wary about going out in public and, as a result, we’ll only be opening between 11am and 5pm during Phase 2 and we’ll review it after that.
“We provide a local delivery service too which allows people to look at our range of goods online, select what they would like and we’ll then deliver it to their door,” she said.
Like a lot of modern businesses Mourne Antiques and Jewellery and Amelia’s Irish Design and Gifts have an online presence.
“It’s at times like this that I wished I had spent more time developing our online content but, that said, we’ve been attracting traffic and people have been purchasing goods online.
“I’m looking forward to seeing people back in the shops once more but, like everyone else, I think it will be some time yet before we’ll see any level of normality,” Ms Spears said.
Evolve Clothing is a local family owned business which has been operating out of Letterkenny Retail Park since 2008.
“We’ve been through a recession, Brexit and now coronavirus but we’re still here,” co-founder JP McCloskey said this week.
Customers coming into the store next week will notice that there will be a lot more space with floor stands removed to allow for wider aisles. They’ve also created a private shopping floor upstairs for people with special needs or those who would prefer the private shopping experience.
Another new concept will be the ‘Virtual Shop’. Booked online or through the telephone, it takes the customer through the shop via a video operated by a member of staff who picks up items as they’re ordered.
“We’ve made quite a few changes. We also think that ‘Click and Collect’ will be big for the rest of the year. There will be people shopping from their phones sitting in their car park outside the shop and they’ll just be able to come into the shop and collect whatever goods they’ve ordered. We’ve moved a second till to the front of the shop with that in mind.
“We’ve moved the men’s suit area upstairs and brought ladies wear downstairs so that it’s all now on the one floor. We’ve made a lot of changes to make things safer for staff and customers.
“We’ve been closed for the past three months now. Initially, we thought that it would be for two to three weeks. It’s hard to believe and there will be a slow pick up over the next few weeks. We do have an online presence and we’ve been very grateful to have had that over these past few months,” he said.
For further information visit Evolveclothing.com or ring the shop on 91-61615 or mobile 089-412-9897 to book the private shopping floor or virtual shopping service.
Paco Graves, who started the Paco brand in 1986, says that he’s looking forward to re-opening his Letterkenny store at Paddy Harte Road. The Paco company, which offers a wide range of women’s clothing, has been in Letterkenny since the late 1990s.
“For the staff working in the shop there will be a big difference. They’ve got to clean their hands very frequently and disinfect the visa keypad and till after every transaction. They’ve also have a dirty bin and clean bin for hangers. Every time somebody tries something on the hanger is put in the dirty bin and on goes a new, clean sanitised hanger.
“It’s up to us to make sure the shop is as safe and clean as possible for the customers and the staff because if member of staff gets sick and has to go off for two weeks it’s no good to them and no good to us,” he said.
“We were in Letterkenny Shopping Centre from the late nineties until 2013 when we closed down the shop, We re-opened in our present location two years ago,” he added.
“We have an online company which has been very busy and, hopefully, we’ll start to see people come through the shop doors once more from next Monday. It will take time for people’s confidence to return. The staff will be wearing face masks and gloves – it will be as safe as it can be,” Paco Graves said.
Mehan’s opened Bliss clothing on Letterkenny’s Main Street in 1984. To mark the store’s re-opening next Monday owner Sanjay Mehan is offering 20 per cent off all stock.
One of Letterkenny’s most colourful characters, Sanjay said that he was looking forward to welcoming people back into his shop.
“At this stage everything else is done – the gardening, the weeding. Time is money. It’s strange times and all we can do is hope for the best,” he said.
“We’re only allowing a few people in at a time. It’s important to that we do all we can to ensure that things are as safe as possible for our customers.
“We’ll be on the Main Street thirty-six years in July – we’re one of longest established independent retailers and we’re finding it very tough so we’re looking forward to everybody coming back out to support us from Monday next.
“We’re going to given twenty per cent off stock. Sanjay’s back,” he added.
Alfie Greene thought that he had seen it all during his fifty-five years in business but that was before coronavirus.
Both his Greenes Shoes premises at Market Centre and the outlet in Letterkenny Shopping Centre will be allowed to open their doors as part of Phase 2.
“We’ve just received confirmation that the Shopping Centre premises will be open too. We’ve been closed since March 15. We have them all lined out according to the rules and regulations. We’ll have everything in order. A big concern is will people come in? The online has gone very well but will it stay or will it come down again? God only knows the answer but we’ll be open and ready to welcome customers back into the shop come Monday morning. We hope that people will come back and we expect that people will come back and we look forward to seeing them again,” he added.