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Penneys reopens early to welcome back Donegal shoppers

Letterkenny Shopping Centre was crammed with people carrying brown bags as the pre-festive season splurge began.

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(Liam McBurney/PA)

(Liam McBurney/PA)

(Liam McBurney/PA)

Penneys in the north west was open from 7am on Tuesday morning to welcome back shoppers as coronavirus restrictions were eased.

Letterkenny Shopping Centre was crammed with people carrying brown bags as the pre-festive season splurge began.

Centre manager Brian McCracken said it was good to welcome back familiar faces.

“We are delighted to see the faces back again,” he said.

“It is not all about money, it is a social event for people coming out. It is great to see them back.”

It is like Christmas but it is notDiane McGowan

For many at the centre, online shopping did not make up for the experience of touching and seeing wares.

Diane McGowan, in her 40s, a mother-of-four from Letterkenny, said she knew what she was buying at a physical shop.

She sat outside the centre waiting for a taxi with two young children and Penneys bags with 500 euro of goods beside her.

“It is like Christmas but it is not,” she said.

“It has been very stressful, especially with all the shops being closed.”

She said she worried about repeated lockdowns, adding: “I am just trying to get everything done before this lockdown happens again but I am happy that they are open today.”

Her children Matthew, three, and Luke, two, played outside the shopping centre beside her.

Lina Elhambouth, from Letterkenny, said she had gone out for essential clothes.

“It has been very difficult. It was not so good online, I have a child and the size changes.

“This feels good, there was no life before this.”

Jimmy Stafford, president of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, urged people to take personal responsibility and wear a mask.

He added there was an air of excitement and retailers had worked late getting shops ready for reopening.

Invest Donegal said: “Best wishes to the many retail businesses reopening their doors across Donegal today.

“Let’s continue to support them all as much as we can.”

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Brian McCracken, centre manager of Letterkenny Shopping Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)

Brian McCracken, centre manager of Letterkenny Shopping Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)

Brian McCracken, centre manager of Letterkenny Shopping Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)

As retailers opened in the Irish Republic, people in Northern Ireland – where non-essential retail remains closed – were urged not to be tempted to cross the border.

Stormont’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said: “I would strongly be advising people against travelling across the border to do Christmas shopping.

“That is not the way that we’re going to get the transmission of this virus under control.”

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Our advice remains the same – it’s just to stay at home, please stay at home if you can, no non-essential travel.

“So please ask yourself the question: is it really necessary for you to travel anywhere to shop?”

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