Covid-19: NI shoppers throng to stores on third day of reopening

Image caption,
Town centres were crowded with shoppers and diners on the bank holiday weekend

Shoppers have thronged the streets on the third day since non-essential retail was allowed to reopen in Northern Ireland.

Large crowds gathered in town centres, as outdoor hospitality also entered day three of trading again.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council relaxed Sunday trading restrictions for the first two weeks of May, in anticipation of large crowds.

Non-essential retailers have not been allowed to open their doors since Northern Ireland went into lockdown on 26 December, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Image caption,
Outdoor hospitality has also been open since 30 April

Extra hours welcome

The council has extended opening hours from 10:00 to 18:00 on Sundays for small retailers - giving them three more hours to trade.

Requests from larger retailers to trade for longer were rejected.

Image caption,
Neil Anderson's phone has been ringing non-stop since non-essential retail was given a date for reopening

Neil Anderson owns a bridal shop in Portadown, County Armagh, and welcomed the extra time to see clients.

He said: "It's been really busy from we got word we could open - emails, messages, phone hasn't stopped.

"Lots of new brides booked in, lots of existing brides who have had to change their wedding dates, waiting on dresses to be collected."

Image caption,
Thomas Vaughn says the extended opening hours will give people more choice

Portadown retailer Thomas Vaughn said longer opening hours might encourage more people to get back out shopping.

"It's going to hope people ease back into shopping, especially more vulnerable people who don't want to come out Saturday when it's more of a busier day."

Shop local

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said shoppers had favoured local traders as they returned to high streets.

"People have turned out and more importantly they have turned out to support independent retailers in a big, big way," Mr Glyn said.

"I think the messaging we have put across to get them out and supporting their local traders has been heard loud and clear."