Lockdown rules for supermarkets blocking off non-essential items

Shoppers have been left outraged after finding barriers preventing access to parts of their local supermarket, but is it legally allowed?

Tesco customers in Merseyside slammed the retailer’s decision, asking why they can no longer visit part of its stores including its Prescot and Bidston branches.

On Twitter, @laughingmonsta said: “@Tesco any reason why the upstairs section (i.e clothes quite an essential thing) would be shut by the management of your Prescot Extra store?”

Another, @sjk26381, said: “Tesco Prescot …. Why have you closed the upstairs part of the store, when it was open all throughout lockdown 1.0???

“Yet you will fetch something down for people causing queues at the entrance of the store?? No logic or ‘science’ at play here…”

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “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 woman was told by Tesco staff that she couldn't buy sanitary pads from the supermarket
This was the scene at a Tesco store in Wales when its ‘firebreak’ lockdown was introduced. Tesco’s stores in Prescot and Bidston also have sectioned off parts of its branches
(Image: PA)

But what does Government legislation actually say about what supermarkets can do during the lockdown?

Lockdown rules can be confusing, especially when you’re not too sure on what is considered an ‘essential’ item.

Most of us will be aware that supermarkets and other food shops are defined as essential retailers so they are allowed to stay open during lockdown .

Where it gets complicated is regarding food stores that are also selling non-essential items – which most of them do.

Government guidelines say that any business selling “a significant amount of essential retail” can also continue to sell goods typically sold at non-essential retail, reports BirminghamLive.

The guidelines add: “For example, a supermarket that sells food is not required to close off or cordon off aisles selling homeware.”

So this means you can buy non-essential goods during the lockdown. But there are further rules that apply to stores where such goods are in separate departments or units or on different floors.

The Government legislation goes on to explain: “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.

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“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.”

This means that supermarkets are required to close off separate floors selling clothing, electrical goods, homeware or other non-essentials.

But if there are no separate sections or floors for these goods, you can buy them as you shop for your groceries.

Liverpool Echo – What’s On