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Welsh Firebreak Lockdown and Essential Shopping

In Wales the government has ordered a national “firebreak” lockdown for a two-week period to slow the spread of the coronavirus Covid19. All stores have been asked to close their doors except those selling essential items like food, pet food, fuel and medicines. Amongst the stores that are allowed to open are food and drink retailers (including off licences), newsagents, petrol stations and post offices.

As of 23 October, there are restrictions on which products may be sold in stores that are on the permitted list. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted for sale after 10pm. Stores such as supermarkets who have whole aisles dedicated to non-essential items like toys or homeware have been asked to section off these areas. The Welsh government said on Twitter "The purpose of selling essential items only during firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops and to be fair to retailers who have to close."


The government has suggested that retailers should use their discretion to determine which areas should be restricted – if a mixed aisle requires cordoning off, it should be done in such a way that people can circulate safely. However, items that are clearly non-essential should be removed from sale or marked so customers know they are not for sale. If there is any doubt as to whether an item is essential or non-essential, retailers should use their judgement.

Items that are usually merchandised within essential areas can stay on sale if it means the aisle remains accessible for essential items. Likewise, items like lightbulbs or rubber gloves that might potentially be categorised as a homeware item can remain within the essentials category if they would commonly be on sale in stores that are allowed to be open – like convenience stores and petrol stations.

The Welsh Government website states “Other products can only be sold through delivery services, whether that is conducted online, by telephone or mail order.” Click and collect services are only permitted for stores that are already allowed to be open. What does it mean for your Wales based convenience store? The law is in place to make the environment fairer for small businesses but if you run a large store, you should remove from sale, cover or restrict access to large sections of goods like toys and seasonal decorations, homeware, garden care items, stationery and clothing. Smaller sections of items can remain if the items are commonly sold in essential stores – greetings cards etc and where restrictions within the store would make it more difficult for shoppers and staff to remain socially distant.

You may continue to run Home Delivery services or Click and Collect – if you don’t yet offer these services, ask us about Basket, which can help you get your store online. According to Lee Waters, Welsh Deputy Economy and Transport Minister in an interview with BBC Wales, "This is not the last lockdown we are likely to see. The projections we published in a worst-case scenario show it's likely we are going to need another firebreak in January or February."

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