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Supermarkets in England closing non-essential parts of stores following UK Government guidance

08 Nov 2020 3 minute read
Tesco store. Picture by Maxwell Hamilton (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencers shops in England have closed off parts of their stores which only sell items deemed “non-essential” following updated government guidance amid the country’s lockdown.

Earlier this week the UK Government denied reports that stores in England had been instructed to cordon off aisles which contain non-essential products only, after moves to ban the sale of non-essential items in Wales was sharply criticised.

However, the updated UK Government guidance stipulates that shops in England that have “sufficiently distinct parts” should close the areas selling non-essential items.

Following complaints by customers that they could not access clothes and other parts of their shops across England, Tesco released a statement saying they had been asked to do so by the UK government.

“In line with new government guidance in England which requires the closure of separate floors selling non-food items, we have closed the clothing and general merchandise departments in our stores that sell these products from a separate mezzanine level,” a Tesco spokesperson said.

The original claim in industry publication The Grocer was branded “fake news” by senior Welsh Conservatives after Nation.Cymru reported on them.

The Grocer‘s original report was incorrect in that it suggested shops would be required to cordon off individual aisles, while the UK Government guidelines require instead that shops to close off “sufficiently distinct parts” of a store.


‘Distinct parts’

The full guidance from the UK government said: “Where a business has sufficiently distinct parts, and one section provides essential retail and one section provides non-essential retail, the non-essential sections should close to limit interactions between customers and the opportunity for the disease to spread.

“Sufficiently distinct sections might involve operating in separate buildings, across separate floors, a door between sections, using separate cashiers, or another clear demarcation between sections.

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

The Welsh Government policy caused a furore when introduced during Wales’ ‘firebreak’ lockdown and a petition against the move was signed by almost 70,000 people.

The Welsh Conservatives were critical of the move, with Health spokesperson Andrew RT Davies calling it a “barmy ban” and the Welsh Government a “tin-pot dictatorship”.

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