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Call for increased retail supports ahead of reopening

The Chief Executive of Retail Excellence Ireland has called for increased government support for the sector, as up to 1,800 shops look to reopen next Monday.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, David Fitzsimons said that only 70% of staff are expected to return to work in the coming months, with his organisation predicting job losses for over 100,000 workers.

He said that those stores reopening next week are “excited and nervous” about doing so.

He said Phase Two of the Government’s road map – which begins on 8 June – will be the real test for the sector, as around 18,000 smaller stores would reopen.

He said that they expect pent-up demand to be good initially, but have concerns that consumer spending will then drop by up to 40% as seen in other parts of Europe and Asia.

He said retailers are seeking further assistance with rates, rents and liquidity measures.

Mr Fitzsimons said the future of shopping will not be tactile and social, but very functional.

Retailers are looking at how best to manage hygiene and social distancing, he said, with some looking at thermal imaging and queue management systems.

Anything tried but not bought in a shop, such as jewellery, will need to be disenfected.

Meanwhile Chief Executive of the O’Flynn Construction Group, Michael O’Flynn, has said they have had extensive re-training on how construction sites will operate ahead of them reopening on Monday.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr O’Flynn said that even before restrictions were put in place, they had already implemented a lot of changes on site.

He said they are going to have to do things differently going forward, and while some activities on housing sites are “easier to implement”, apartment blocks and bigger projects will bring a different challenge.

“Productivity will be different,” he said, adding that the cost base will change somewhat also.

He said he believes that housing impact will be quite low, but for apartments and other types of construction, the impact will be much higher while the virus remains.

He said the rules on site will be strict when they reopen next week.

“Rules are only as good as how they are implemented. I am very confident that we will have Covid marshals, as we call them, on all sites.  Every site has been assessed and every site will have a compliance officer,” he said.

He said every aspect of the operation from meal times, to the time workers come and go, has had to be looked at to “make it safe”.

He said they accept the health priority but added that it is “a question of balance” and welcomed that they are returning to work.

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