Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman

Retailers and trade bodies including the Association of Convenience Stores and the Welsh Retail Consortium have written urgently to the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, expressing alarm over new regulations to restrict the sale of non-essential products in essential shops during the firebreak.

The ACS and WRC are seeking an urgent meeting with the First Minister on this.

Regulations set out ahead of the firebreak lockdown, due to come into force on Friday night, would require retailers to only sell what government deems to be essential product lines. However, no definition of an essential product has been provided by the government.

The letter to the First Minister states that “attempting to define, restrict and communicate the sales of non-essential products to our customers and colleagues with less than 36 hours” notice is a near impossible task. This policy will also put frontline retail colleagues in the difficult position of having to refuse the sale of certain products in store that could be a flashpoint for violence and abuse.’

Sara Jones, head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said: “Compelling retailers to stop selling certain items, without them being told clearly what is and what isn’t permitted to be sold, is ill-conceived and short-sighted. We hope ministers will rethink this particular part of their fire breaker plan.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers must not be forced to stop making products available to customers just because ministers don’t think they’re essential. These regulations are badly thought out, providing little to no notice to retailers, and must be scrapped to avoid chaos in shops across Wales.

“The confusion and confrontations between customers and shopworkers that this rule will trigger will ultimately lead to more contacts and time spent in proximity to other people, which is the exact opposite of what ministers are aiming to achieve.”