Tánaiste confirms supermarkets barred from selling toys and clothes in Level 5 lockdown

Tánaiste expresses confidence that under the current laws, gardai will have the powers to deal with any retailers selling non-essential items



27 October 2020 | 0

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During the past week, Isme, which represents smaller traders, spoke out on the unfairness of some supermarkets continuing to sell goods such as toys, clothes and hardware while “crippled small businesses” which have been deemed non-essential retailers, were forced to close.

Neil McDonnell, Isme chief executive said scenes of shoppers queuing outside multinationals for toys on the first day of six weeks of Ireland’s Level 5 lockdown were like a “red rag to a bull” for thousands of stores forced to close.

“The small guys are getting shut down by government and at the same time government is allowing really large billion-euro businesses to continue trading,” McDonnell said, describing the government’s actions as facilitating “a massive transfer of wealth”.

“I really don’t understand what the long-term objective here is, unless they want main street Ireland to have tumble weed blowing through it in the new year,” McDonnell said in an interview with The Irish Times.

However speaking on RTE Radio One’s This Week, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said it is now illegal to stock and sell non-essential items, with any outlets found to be in breach by gardai in line for serious punishment.

“[Retailers] need to abide by regulations and you need to abide by the spirit of the regulations,” he said.

“If you are a mixed retailer, you should separate your stock and only sell items that are essential.

“If you are a supermarket or a big store that has groceries and clothes, you should separate off the clothes and not sell them. Workwear is ok but general clothing [is] not.

“We have been in touch with the gardai and that will be enforced.

“If [shops] are selling PPE that is one thing. But if they’re trying to use PPE in order to sell other products, that is a very different thing,” the Tánaiste added.

He also described this action as “unfair” on the small shops and retailers across the country that have been forced to close.

Tánaiste Varadkar said he was “confident” that the current laws ensured gardai have the powers to deal with any retailers selling non-essential items.

A number of large retailers have also responded to this issue in the media.

A spokeswoman for Lidl said it was an “essential retailer” which also offers “a mixture of hardware, gardening, textiles and furniture – many of which are still permitted under Level 5 guidelines.”

“If Lidl were forced to remove these items from sale it would cause massive logistical issues and would result in our warehouses being overstocked, which would seriously compromise our ability to get essential food supplies in,” the spokesperson added.

“We can appreciate that this may seem unfair, however we have made every effort to cancel promotion of these items in media and online.”

Tesco meanwhile said it was “adhering to Government guidelines by closing our F&F clothing units across the country.”

Musgrave Group said its SuperValu and Centra stores “would carry a small amount of non-food products.”

“We are deeply conscious of the fact that many local stores and family businesses are closed at the most important trading time of the year,” a spokeswoman said.

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