Independent traders forced to close but business as usual for multinationals
A furious Donegal businessman is calling for an urgent review of the Covid-19 restrictions around clothes shopping.
Seamus McDaid, whose family-owned business Topline Fashions, has traded in Buncrana for the past 40 years, branded the Level 5 guidelines on what constitutes an essential item “incomprehensible”.
Speaking to Donegal Live, Mr McDaid said: “Along with many independent retailers in Inishowen who sell clothes, Topline Fashions, has been forced to close for six weeks by the government because we are in Level 5, which carries the highest restrictions. However, multinational stores, which sell what are designated as 'essential items' are allowed to remain open and also sell clothes.
“For some reason, which I do not understand, the government has said that clothing is not essential. This is inexplicable to me, especially as we are coming into an Irish winter, when people definitely need clothes and footwear.
“And it has not escaped the notice of traders in Inishowen that multinationals, which are selling 'essential items' like food are also selling clothes.
“It makes no sense and it is damaging our livelihoods because, under the essential purposes for travel (permitted outside 5km limit), people are allowed to shop for 'essential items', which means people from Buncrana and wider Inishowen can travel to Letterkenny or to Derry and buy clothes and footwear,” said Mr McDaid.
Mr McDaid said independent traders in Inishowen had suffered a “double whammy” of a lack of government clarity around the definition of essential and non essential items and proximity to the border.
He added: “The situation in Inishowen has been exacerbated because in border towns like Buncrana, Carndonagh and in Lifford too, people are travelling to the North to shop. Stormont has allowed the shops there to remain open, while we have been forced to close.
“There is nothing stopping Inishowen people heading into Derry to do their Christmas shopping. People need to shop for Christmas. after Hallowe'en, we would have been coming into what is normally our busiest time of the year. People do begin their Christmas shopping now. Our customers would have been putting away clothes, footwear and homewares for Christmas.
“I cannot understand why the government has classed clothing down as non essential. People need clothes and footwear. I would call for a review of the definition of essential. Clothes are 'essential items' and it makes no sense for clothes shops to be closed while other shops are selling clothes because they are open and selling 'essential items'.
“Fortunately Topline Fashion does offer customers a click and collect facility. However, many but not all retailers have this ability. Having said that, you cannot beat the experience of going into a shop and feeling the material and trying on a garment,” said Seamus McDaid.
Mr McDaid said that up until the introduction of Level 5 restrictions, no retailers had any problem implementing the sanitising and social distancing regulations.
He added: “I can vouch for probably nearly every independent retailer in Inishowen. We followed the rules. We were all wearing masks.
“You know something is wrong when you hear someone like Deirdre Bradley, Chair of Carndonagh Traders' Association on local radio, almost in tears because she had to close her boutique. Why did she have to close her boutique yet other shops can sell clothes?
“I cannot understand why the governments North and South did not act in unison about the opening of shops in the border area. One area is open and one closed. People have to shop and will go where the shops are open.
“If they consulted with the TDs and Minister in the area, people who live in the area, who know the area, that would have made sense. Someone like Micheál Martin up in Dublin would not understand the devastating implications the different restriction in different jurisdictions is having in Buncrana and wider Inishowen. We are going to be badly hit by this and the fact some shops are selling clothes because they are selling so called 'essential items', said Mr McDaid.
Donegal TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said it was important there is a level playing pitch for all businesses at this time.
He added: “The decision to close retail businesses like clothes shops is really tough on them and their workers but to see other larger stores being able to sell clothes along with food is unfair.
“The Government has indicated it is going to deal with the issue now and that is welcome.”
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