Supermarkets call for non-essential items rule to be relaxed in Wales

Organisations met with the Welsh Government on Tuesday in order to ‘resolve the confusion’ over the shopping ban.

Coronavirus
Coronavirus

Wales’ lockdown ban on selling non-essential items should be relaxed to allow customers “to make their own decision”, retailers have told the Welsh Government.

Groups representing supermarkets made a series of recommendations to Welsh ministers on Tuesday following confusion over what can and cannot be sold during the 17-day firebreak period.

A joint statement by CBI Wales, the Welsh Retail Consortium, and the Association of Convenience Stores, said it hoped the Welsh Government would now agree to its proposals in order to “resolve the confusion”.

The statement said: “We recommend the individual customer is trusted to make their own decision as to whether a product is non-essential or not, taking into account the notices displayed throughout the store and their immediate needs.

Coronavirus – Sun Oct 25, 2020
The clothing area in a supermarket near Cardiff is deemed to contain non-essential items and is cordoned off as Wales entered a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown (Ben Birchall/PA)

“If the customer goes ahead with the purchase of the item the final liability ought to rest with the customer.”

It added: “These recommendations would mean non-essential items are not removed from shelves, or cordoned off in stores, but large notices are placed in front of the products and in communal spaces informing customers of the Welsh Government’s regulations and the Welsh public are trusted to make the right decision.

“We look forward to engaging with Welsh Government again this morning and we hope consensus can be reached.”

The statement added that its proposals would “resolve the confusion over non-essential items”, as well as help the Welsh public “refocus all their energies on respecting the firebreak”.

The meeting comes a day after health minister Vaughan Gething said it would be made clear that supermarkets could use their own discretion to sell non-essential items to individuals “who are in genuine need”.

He said he was “very saddened” to hear of an exchange involving Tesco on Twitter in which it was wrongly suggested sanitary products were “non-essential” and so could not be sold due to the new measures in place in Wales.

The Welsh Government has said the rules are both about limiting transmissions of coronavirus as well as being fair to non-essential retailers who have had to close during the firebreak.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in Wales
(PA Graphics)

Other proposals made to ministers on Tuesday include supermarkets prominently displaying approved signage in front of non-essential items, while using in-store announcements and social media messaging to advise customers to put off non-essential purchases.

Retailers would also remove special in-store promotional displays of non-essential items in order to minimise browsing time and “avoid triggering a non-essential purchase”.

The Welsh Government is expected to revise its guidance to retailers later on Tuesday.

The new restrictions in Wales, which began at 6pm on Friday and will end on November 9, mean non-essential retail including clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships must close.

Shops selling multiple types of product can stay open but can only sell essential items which, according to the Welsh Government’s website, also includes those “which would normally be sold in pharmacies and chemists”.

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