A four-hour wait just to make a booking to obtain an appointment to shop in Penneys next week is as much proof as anybody needs that people are rather excited to be exiting lockdown.
The reopening of the non-essential retail sector begins next Monday, May 10th, with the return of click-and-collect services along with shopping by appointment. The latter is just a stop-gap situation that should last for no longer than one week. All non-essential stores will be entitled to reopen with no appointments necessary from May 17th.
The discount fashion chain, which trades abroad as Primark, opened its website for bookings on Friday, and there were long waits all day for a coveted slot. It has 100 appointments available per hour in each of its 36 Irish stores each day next week for those people who cannot wait another few days to buy their annual stock of cheap summer clobber and other disposable on-trend fashion items.
There is little consumer advantage to be gained by obtaining a slot for Penneys in the week before the doors are flung open to everybody else. The appointments are as much about recreation as shopping. People are simply desperate for things to do, and until bars and restaurants reopen a trip to a fashion outlet will simply have to suffice.
The clamour around the release of its slots generates some marketing hype for Penneys, which has always revelled in the pop subculture that surrounds its brand in Ireland.
The Penneys famine has also underlined another aspect of its business model, however, which it is going to have to address at some stage. In a world gone digital, Penneys/Primark still has no ecommerce offering.
People would not be desperately queueing up for Penneys appointment slots if they had been able to purchase its goods online throughout the lockdown. It is rather ironic that, while Penneys has no online division, the company that is perhaps its biggest commercial rival, BooHoo.com, has no shops.
Looking to the future of discount fashion retailing, they can’t both be right.