Welsh shopkeepers banned from selling 'non essential' items during firebreak lockdown

Martin Evans
·2-min read
A list of restricted items is being drawn up by the Welsh government
A list of restricted items is being drawn up by the Welsh government

Welsh shopkeepers will be banned from selling certain 'non essential' items under new restrictions being imposed as part of the firebreak lockdown.

Retail groups have acted with dismay after Welsh ministers told them they would have to restrict the sale of certain goods in a bid to reduce the number of people visiting their shops.

With less than 24 hours to go before the new restrictions were due to come into place, the list of 'banned items' had still not been drawn up and retailers warned that the move would do little to bring down infection rates.

While food and drink is unlikely to be affected, it is feared the sale of plants will be banned forcing the closure of garden centres during the two week long circuit break.

Shopkeepers said restricting the sale of certain items made no sense because people would already be in the store purchasing permitted goods so it would be unlikely to reduce footfall.

Watch: Wales imposes 'firebreak' for two weeks

Retailers and trade associations have written to the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, asking him to reconsider the move and warning that the restrictions could lead to confrontations between staff and frustrated customers.

Sara Jones, Head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said “Compelling retailers to stop selling certain items, without them being told clearly what is and what isn’t permitted to be sold, is ill-conceived and short-sighted. We hope Ministers will rethink this particular part of their fire breaker plan.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman added: “Retailers must not be forced to stop making products available to customers just because Ministers don’t think they’re essential.

"These regulations are badly thought out, providing little to no notice to retailers, and must be scrapped to avoid chaos in shops across Wales.

"The confusion and confrontations between customers and shopworkers that this rule will trigger will ultimately lead to more contacts and time spent in proximity to other people, which is the exact opposite of what Ministers are aiming to achieve.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The fire-break is designed to reduce all physical contact between households to an absolute minimum in order to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

"We have a small window in which to take this action and there are no easy choices. However, we fully recognise the impact the fire-break will have on businesses and are making a further £300 million available to support them through this difficult period.”

Watch: Welsh Government to introduce Covid-19 travel ban from high risk UK areas