With anticipation building for what measures PM Boris will announce on Sunday connected to the easing of the lockdown on business and personal life in the UK, those over in Eire are coming to terms to the constraints of five phase ‘roadmap’ that The Taoiseach released a few days ago, which, at present sees card shops there being among the last to open, currently having to remain closed until August 10.
Brian Murtagh and Paul Slater, co-directors of Dublin-based card publishing and distribution business, Watermark Cards shared their perspective on the new guidelines and the impact so far that Covid-19 has had on their business.
“Our turnover is down 97%. As we supply mid to higher-end shops they have all been closed since the middle of March. And worse than that, St Patrick’s Day was effectively cancelled!” said Paul. “We all need a great big party!”
Watermark Cards distributes cards from Blue Mountain Arts, Dandelion, Danilo, Emotional Rescue, Glick, Mint, Museums & Galleries, Nigel Quiney, Paperlink, Paper Rose, Paper Salad, Simon Elvin, Tracks, Woodmansterne and Words ‘n’ Wishes into the Republic of Eire. The company has recently clinched the deal to supply the well-respected Easons chain of of 60 rooftops via brokerage, once lockdown is over.
“Like everyone else our worlds have been turned upside down and inside out since the outbreak of the Coronavirus,” Paul and Brian told PG Buzz. “Our Government moved quickly to shut everything down, starting with schools on 13th March. Unbelievably, the pubs in Ireland closed on March 15th and our national holiday, Saint Patrick’s Day which falls on March 17th was effectively cancelled. Full lockdown was then officially announced on Friday 27th March, but most non-essential retail had already closed in the preceding days.
Thankfully, we have managed to control the spread of the virus and our numbers of deaths and confirmed cases have remained relatively low. This has meant that our health services have been able to deal with the outbreak without being overwhelmed.
Last Friday our Government announced a roadmap for the easing of restriction from May 18th. The reopening will take place over five phases, each to commence three weeks apart and ending on August 10th. Obviously, the easing of restrictions will only happen if the numbers remain low – any spike in cases will result in a suspension of these measures or further lock downs.
Based on this ‘road map’, non-essential retail outlets will begin to reopen on 29th June, with enclosed shopping centres opening in Phase Five on 10th August.
While it is great to have a plan, we were quite surprised that the easing of restrictions was scheduled so far into the future. We had hoped that non-essential retail would have been allowed a sooner opening date. Given our success in controlling the virus, it has surprised us that the Government is not aiming for a quicker return to ‘a new normal’. Many of our specialist greeting card retailers are now facing closure until 10th August which will be almost five months since they suspended trading. This will present significant challenges to an already difficult retail sector.
In addition, large public gatherings and weddings will be cancelled, or numbers attending reduced, which may affect the numbers of greeting cards purchased.
However, we must remain positive and confident that we will overcome the current pandemic. When this is all over, we will have a huge new appreciation for everyday life and most of all for the importance of family, and both personal and business friends. We will celebrate life like never before and cherish our relationships and special occasions.
We hope that the sending of greeting cards will continue to provide a great way of reconnecting with people and to show family members and friends how much they are valued. Perhaps consumers will send even more Christmas cards than before to keep in contact and send their greetings.
While the future is still very uncertain, we all need to work together and look forward to better days ahead when life will return to normal. ”
Here are the details of how Ireland is dealing with coming out of lockdown.
Top: Hard to believe that The Temple Bar, a landmark in Dublin’s Grafton Street was not open for St Patrick’s Day!