The BBC, The Guardian and The Sunday Times are among national consumer media that are highlighting the inequalities of England’s second lockdown for independent housewares stockists.
Featured on BBC News Online (November 12), Martin Coles-Evans, owner of 150 year old housewares stockist Hargreaves & Sons in Buxton, Derbyshire states: “Shops like ourselves, we’re following the rules and we’re making people stay safe so we’re closed, and yet these bigger companies are trying on loopholes left, right and centre to stay open, when really they shouldn’t be.” He is also quoted saying: “It does seem to be they’re mopping up all the Christmas trade while we’re just limping along, struggling trying to get by with some government support.”
Earlier this week, a tweet by Hargreaves & Sons pointed out that its nearby garden centre ‘has queues of shoppers happily buying gifts and home decor (non essential) and that the enclosed franchise cook shop @ProCookUk still open’.
Martin has written to his MP on behalf of Hargreaves & Sons and other independents, pointing out that Christmas accounts for 40% of the shop’s annual turnover and asking: ‘How can the government justify the opening of garden centres when gifts and homewares stores like are asked to remain closed? We either all close or we are all open.”
General merchandise chain and housewares stockists The Range has come under fire for encouraging consumers to ‘Shop Christmas in-store and online.’ Quoted in The Guardian newspaper (November 7), Andrew Goodacre, ceo of Bira describes an “un-level playing field,” with some large homewares stores and other non-food businesses remaining open during lockdown.
Meanwhile The Sunday Times (November 8) ran an article on how lockdown is damaging local shops in favour of supermarkets and internet giants, featuring an interview with Liz Lawson, md of Lawons, with three home stores in Devon. While Lawsons remains open, stocking hardware (but only taking about 20% of normal trade), Liz acknowledges that retailers should not be encouraging customers to come in to stores during lockdown.
“It’s completely unfair that supermarkets and garden centres are allowed to clean up,” Liz comments in The Sunday Times. “It was obviously a bit ridiculous in Wales to have supermarket aisles selling non-essential goods covered up, but that’s right, people should be going in there, buying food and going home.”
Top: Hargreaves & Sons, Buxton has gained a lot of local support for speaking out on behalf of local shops and is described by a supporter commenting on Facebook as ‘a gem in our town.’