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Clarity on essential retailers and Bira comments on lack of sense as ‘homeware’ deemed non-essential

As cookshops and housewares stockists in England prepare to shut their doors for a month’s lockdown at the end of today, the Government has updated its lists of essential and non-essential retailers to provide more clarity.

‘Homeware’ is now listed as non-essential retail. Hardware is shown on the list of essential retailers, which also includes garden centres.

Hardware stores (many of which stock housewares) were deemed ‘essential’ from the start of this year’s nationwide lockdown, whereas garden centres and homewares stores were allowed to open in May, prior to the general re-opening of non-essential retail in the summer.

Above: Andrew Goodacre of Bira.
Above: Andrew Goodacre of Bira.

Andrew Goodacre, ceo of Bira (The British Independent Retailers Association, representing cookshops and housewares stockists) told “Given all the safety measure now in place in all retail shops, we fail to understand the scientific argument for closing down 80% of retail. Instead of allowing shoppers to be dispersed in many different shops, we are now herding them into supermarkets – somewhat counter-intuitive as this virus thrives where people are in such close proximity to each other.”

Commenting on the classification of homewares, Andrew said: “We urged the government to view homeware shops as essential – after all they were added to the essential list last time around along with garden centres. It therefore does not make sense for homeware to now be non-essential and garden centres left open (especially when the main sales in garden centres at this time of year are Christmas items for the home and not plants!)”

Reflecting on the timing of lockdown in England, Andrew continues: “Closing shops down for one month at this time of year (and no guarantees it will only be for one month) will have the same effect as the earlier 13 week closedown because of the volume of sales at this time of year. Then there is the real added threat of consumers doing all their main shopping online, making it hard for shops to sell Christmas stock as and when they do re-open.”

Picking up on one positive for non-essential retailers, Andrew continues: “The only good news from this is that closed businesses can operate with deliveries and click and collect. Since the first lockdown Bira has been urging all independent retailers to improve their digital footprint, especially with social media. We have introduced website developers and new technology such as POINTY to help them be found by local shoppers on Google. The resilience of independent home and housewares stores will be really tested. I am sure the retailers will be creative and try to make the most of a desperately poor situation. Bira will continue to work on their behalf to try and prevent future such lockdowns.”

Cookshops and housewares stockists across England are preparing to offer click and collect to consumers as well as scaling up ecommerce opportunities, for example, see ‘Retailers get set for lockdown in England’.

Bira is providing advice for independent cookshops and housewares stockists on offering a Click and Collect service via its Coronavirus Hub on

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