// Northern Ireland’ parliament issues guidance on how non-essential shopping can be done during 2-week lockdown, which started today
// Shops can operate on an appointment-only basis for collection to limit the spread of Covid infection
// Retailers that do not have an online facility should consider the potential of phoned-in or text ordering
Click-and-collect guidance has been published on the first day of a two-week lockdown which has emptied Northern Ireland’s busiest high streets.
Belfast city centre was deserted today and major shopping centres like Victoria Square were full of closed shutters.
Official guidance stipulates that shops can operate on an appointment-only basis for collection to limit the spread of Covid infection over the next fortnight.
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Customers cannot enter non-essential retailers, pubs and restaurants or close contact services like hairdressers.
However, Stormont ministers hope the online retail sector can help salvage some pre-Christmas sales.
“The publication of this guidance will help business owners and customers ensure they are operating safely and within Northern Ireland legislation,” Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds said.
“It is crucial we protect the retail sector, while reassuring customers that businesses are operating safely and optimising technology, and minimising the risk of spreading Covid-19.”
The new guidance on shopping in Northern Ireland includes:
- Retailers and customers are encouraged to use online ordering and delivery as the first choice.
- Those that do not have an online facility should consider the potential of phoned-in or text ordering.
- Collections are by appointment only and should be scheduled to ensure no customer-to-customer contact and no queuing.
- Retailers are encouraged to allocate time slots which will allow them to manage a reasonable number of people per hour and customers are encouraged to attend within that time slot.
- If collection is from a store in a shopping centre, the collection point should be close to the entrance with a one-way system.
- Customers are not permitted to enter stores – the collection should be from the entrance door.
High street businesses exempt from having to temporarily shut down during Northern Ireland’s two-week lockdown include garden centres, supermarkets and homeware stores.
Meanwhile, Stormont ministers are considering issuing a retail voucher in the new year to all households to help battered businesses weather the winter.
Matt Stevenson, from Holywood in Co Down, has founded a website – supportlocalni.com – which lists more than 100 local businesses’ details.
A business can register for free and it allows people who click on the page to learn a little about it.
“You are not giving your business to the richest man in the world, you are giving it to the local people of Northern Ireland,” he said.
It has been used by 9000 people in the last month.
“It does not matter if you already have an online presence or you are struggling to get an online presence, this will bring you extra eyes,” Stevenson said.
“Especially given these new restrictions that are coming into place, it has never been more important to have as much footfall to your online store as possible.”
Just as Northern Ireland begins its two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown today, 11 council areas across Scotland – including Glasgow – has entered the second of its three-week lockdown.
England is due to end its four-week lockdown on Wednesday next week, which will then be replaced by a strict tiered system.
However, non-essential retailers will be allowed to open in the tiered system.
Meanwhile, it has been almost a month since Wales exited its own 17-day firebreak lockdown.
with PA Wires