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THE average home is expected to spend around €700 in the shops this month, with tills set to ring well into the night from tomorrow as restrictions are finally eased.

Some stores will open from early in the morning until late at night in a bid to spread shopping days out during the pandemic.

Despite the nation's obsession with online shopping, it is expected that shoppers will be keen to engage in the hands-on experience.

However, retail experts predict the capital's streets will see shopping footfall down two-thirds this Christmas because of the pandemic.

"We expect the average household to spend €700 on Christmas this year," Retail Ireland boss Arnold Dillon said.

"But public health is the priority and retailers are taking extra steps to ensure a safe Christmas for customers.

"Many stores are looking at extending opening hours so that trade can be spread more evenly across the day.

"The run-up to Christmas is make or break for many retailers. Many are relying on the period to make up for the major financial hit taken earlier in the year.

"While significant Government supports are welcome, more is needed to help retailers manage commercial rent liab- ilities that continue to accrue during lockdown."

"We anticipate that footfall will be roughly two-thirds of previous years," said Richard Guiney, the CEO of retail group Dublin Town.

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"The fact that hospitality is allowed to open from next Friday will help encourage more evening shopping.

"It won't be as busy as a usual Christmas, but it will hopefully be busier than it has been so far this year."

The group also released a statement on Twitter, asking shoppers to support jobs in the city this Christmas by getting out to buy presents.

"Reopening the city in December and the return of customers is vital to all businesses and the thousands of jobs hard hit these past months," the statement said. "We need your opinion to prepare for a safe re-opening of the city centre."

The group is gathering opinions online on how people feel about shopping in the city this festive season and what could add to the experience.

Extended opening hours

There will also be extended opening hours in Lidl from 7am daily until 10pm from December 22 and Aldi will open its doors from 9am until 10pm from December 16.

Penneys stores in Dundrum and Blanchardstown will open from 7am tomorrow and trade until 10pm on Wednesday.

Brown Thomas and Arnotts will open from 10am tomorrow until 9pm, while Dunnes will open from 8am until 7pm.

Meanwhile, the latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) figures yesterday showed there were two more deaths from Covid-19 yesterday.

There were 299 new cases, most of them in Dublin. There were 94 cases in the capital, 41 in Donegal, 27 in Wicklow, 14 in Louth, 13 in Limerick. The remaining 110 cases were across 20 other counties.

By 2pm yesterday, 257 patients with the virus were being treated in hospital and 30 of these were in intensive care.

Ireland's 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 people is now 92.3. Donegal's 14-day rate is 219.9, while Dublin's is 104.3.

Donegal has the highest incidence rate for a 14-day period in the entire country.

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