Essential or bending the rules? What’s your view on these shops being open in lockdown?

Some big brands have been questioned for trading as “essential retailers” in lockdown – but are these shops truly essential, or are they bending the rules?

The majority of high street stores have been forced to close as the country attempts to curb the second wave of coronavirus, while some shops have been allowed to continue trading.

Any shops selling furnishings, homewares, clothing and other “non-essential” goods, such as toys and stationery, must close under the latest coronavirus restrictions.

However, detailed guidelines state that supermarkets or other “mixed” retailers do not have to rope-off individual aisles where they are selling a small amount of homewares, clothing or other goods deemed non-essential.

Those selling non-essential goods via concessions or separate areas or floors of their stores have been told to close those sections down, though.

For example, a food shop may stay open - but a homeware section on a separate floor or separate building should close.

Some of the shops which have been questioned include The Range, B&M, Poundland and Home Bargains.

MORE: Independent shopkeepers slam big chains ‘bending lockdown rules’ to stay open

Most Read

So which shops are open in Ipswich and why?

B&M

The discount store has been allowed to stay open as it sells food, toiletries, and cleaning products. However, many people’s trolleys at the Anglia Retail Park store – which had queues at every till this morning – were filled with Christmas decorations and gifts, as opposed to essential items.

B&M said: “As an essential retailer and on government advice we remained open in the first lockdown.

“B&M was proud to serve our communities and we will be doing so again. Our colleagues are working tirelessly to make sure you can get all of the items you need.”

The Range

The home, leisure and garden store at Anglia Retail Park is allowed to stay open, as it is considered an “essential retailer”.

The store has a number of dry food aisles, toiletries, pet supplies, cleaning products and a garden centre which means it is allowed to trade.

Its cafe, DeeDee’s, is closed and has been replaced with predominantly Christmas decorations, which appeared to be in most people’s shopping trolleys.

Toilet rolls are also stacked on the shelves as soon as you walk into the store. The Range said it remains open because it stocks thousands of essential everyday products.

Tesco

The Tesco Extra at Copdock interchange remains open as it is a supermarket. However it sells a large number of goods deemed “non-essential” such as homeware, toys and clothing.

Their general merchandise and clothing departments are open in all stores so customers can pick up these items during their essential visits.

The supermarket chain has slashed all the prices of its Florence and Fred range, giving all Clubcard holders 25% off, enticing people to browse.

The Copdock store also had a range of other offers on non-essential items, with some towels reduced from to £3, 25% off boxed Christmas cards and deals on selected books, calendars, and DVDs.

Tesco declined to comment.

Home Bargains

Around 15 people were queuing at the Home Bargains in Martlesham Heath Retail Park on Monday lunchtime.

The store is allowed to stay open under the government guidelines as it sells a substantial amount of “essential items”, such as food, drink, medicines and more.

Despite this, many shoppers were seen purchasing tinsel, Christmas stocking fillers and more.

Poundland

Poundland is one of just a handful of stores open at Martlesham Heath Retail Park during the second lockdown.

The store is being as rigorous as ever about safety and hygiene, with a member of staff at the doors checking the number of people inside and offering hand sanitiser.

Poundland said it is classed as a “mixed retailer” as more than 70% of what it sells is food and essentials, such as household cleaners, toiletries and pet food. However, it is still allowed to sell its clothing range Pep & Co, books, DVDs and makeup, among many other items.

A spokesman for Poundland said: “There’s no difference in our position to earlier in the year. We were open then across the country in support of the very high streets that need the most help.

“There is no bending of any rules. We’re classified as a ‘mixed retailer’ and are expected to open because well over 70% of what we sell is food and essentials, but just as importantly, we’re a lifesaver for those who normally walk to the shops, live week-to-week and cannot always afford to bulk-buy from supermarkets.

“It goes without saying our stores are bring as rigorous as ever about safety and hygiene so customers can shop safely. We’re ready for when people need us.”

Other chain stores which remain open in lockdown include all supermarkets, Pets at Home, QD, Savers, Screwfix, Superdrug, Wickes and Wilko.

MORE: Which essential stores will stay open during lockdown

So what are the rules?

Supermarkets, garden centres, bike shops, newsagents and those selling food, pet supplies and hardware, such as DIY shops, are all classed as essential and are allowed to continue to trade. The full list of “essential” retailers are:

• Food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops can stay open. This also includes fresh food retailers such as butchers, bakers, greengrocers, fishmongers, and delicatessens

• Off licenses and licensed shops selling alcohol, pharmacies, chemists and newsagents are also considered essential and can trade during lockdown

• Hardware stores, such as tools, builders’ hardware, paint and glass stores, building merchants and building services

• Car repair shops, bicycle shops and MOT servicing shops can remain open. Other vehicle repair can also go ahead at these venues

• Post offices

• Laundrettes and dry cleaners

• Animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and pet shops

• Garden centres and agricultural supplies shops

• Non-essential retail shops can remain open for delivery to customers and for click-and-collect

Detailed guidelines state that supermarkets or other “mixed” retailers do not have to rope-off individual aisles where they are selling a small amount of homewares, clothing or other goods deemed non-essential.

However, those selling non-essential goods via concessions or separate areas or floors of their stores have been told to close those sections down.

For example a food shop may stay open, but a homeware section on a separate floor or separate building should close.

How the rules are being enforced in Ipswich

Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) said that only shops which sell a substantial amount of essential goods can remain open.

A spokesman said: “IBC is working to ensure that lockdown is fully in-force in the town so that it is as effective as possible. We are pleased that the vast majority of the town’s businesses are abiding by the rules and so are making the town safer for everyone.

“Last week the council served a Prohibition Notice on a shop, Christmas Wonderland in Tavern Street, that obliges this retailer to close for the rest of lockdown. Only shops that sell a substantial amount of essential goods can remain open under government rules. We do not consider this shop to comply with the regulations and therefore it is not permitted to trade.

“We will continue to monitor compliance with the government’s lockdown regulations across Ipswich. We would much rather work to help businesses to comply with the law but will issue prohibition notices and fixed penalty fines where regulations are being breached.”

Do you think these stores should be open in lockdown? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter