Bira angry over Welsh Government U-turn on ‘essential’ stores
Bira is angry the Welsh Government has made a U-turn on which shops can trade during its two-week lockdown – just hours before its implementation.
Bira only received clarification from the Welsh Government last night (Wednesday, October 21) that homeware stores will not be classed as ‘essential’ retail so will have to shut from tomorrow (Friday, October 24).
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced this week there will be a two-week circuit breaker across the country to curb the rise in coronavirus cases. It will include the closure of all non-essential retail.
However, it was understood homeware stores would be classed as ‘essential’ shops, as they had been during the countrywide lockdown earlier in the year.
Bira’s CEO Andrew Goodacre said: “Although Bira is against closing non-essential shops in Wales (because shopping has never been safer), we have worked with the authorities to ensure that the implementation of this two-week circuit break is as smooth as possible.
“It is therefore really disappointing that critical changes have been made just days before shops are to close. Furthermore, earlier this week we were clearly told that homeware shops were classed as ‘essential’ and now, we are told they are not.
“To add to the confusion, shops remaining open can not sell non-essential products during the circuit-break, even through a click and collect service.
“The Welsh Government has confirmed that whilst a list of ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ goods is due to be published, it will not be definitive and that they expect business to make it’s best efforts and for enforcement to take a pragmatic approach. This is a huge logistical and operational challenge for businesses of all sizes where essential and non-essential products in a store are often mixed and not separated in store, which will cause issues for both staff and consumers alike.”
He added: “Retailers need certainty and an opportunity to plan. Businesses that were under the impression they could carry on meeting the needs of their communities are now being told they have to close and other are being asked to edit their product lines and store layouts with less than 36 hours to go.
“The lack of clarity and notice is reminiscent of the national lockdown in March and it looks as if the Welsh authorities have not learned any lessons from that.”
Bira – along with other major retailers and sector associations – is now calling for an urgent meeting with Ministers in Wales today as the decisions made in the past few days are near impossible for business to support and clearly communicate with consumers.
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