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201119 | Angry Cornwall shopkeepers say big retailers are exploiting lockdown loopholes

 

Angry Cornwall shopkeepers say big retailers are exploiting lockdown loopholes

Cornwall's business chief says it’s ‘blatantly unfair’

An unhappy Sharon HolmesAn unhappy Sharon Holmes


Shops in Cornwall which have had to close during the second lockdown have questioned why big retailers are able to sell the same items they can’t, claiming supermarkets and large stores are taking advantage of lockdown loopholes.

Struggling independent traders – and even the CEO of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce – have said it is “blatantly unfair”.

Shopkeepers in Penzance, which saw the high street suffering even before the pandemic started, are angry that they have had to close but stores like Sainsbury’s and Argos are selling non-essential items such as jewellery, gin and ceramics when they cannot.

Sharon Holmes, who runs Make Industries – a gift and crafts marketplace for 50 micro-businesses across Cornwall – is livid and has written to Penzance MP Derek Thomas to complain about the issue.

She said: “I don’t think it’s right that large supermarkets should be allowed to sell gifts. When I go shopping and see what these shops are selling I’m left completely outraged as are a lot of other small traders.”

Sharon pointed out that the £1,300 grant she has received from the Government is helpful is nothing compared to the money she would me making in a normal November on the run-up to Christmas, made worse by seeing similar items being sold by the “big boys” of retail.

Sharon Holmes of Make Industries branched out and offered new products such as high quality bread flour during the first lockdown
Sharon Holmes of Make Industries branched out and offered new products such as high quality bread flour during the first lockdown (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

“It’s so upsetting,” she said. “I pay for an alcohol licence but feel I should get a refund when Sainsbury’s are selling local gins and beers and I cannot.

“I could reopen if I started selling bread and butter. Supermarkets have exploited that loophole so why can’t I? People would obviously report me if I did that.”

Another Penzance shopkeeper – Neil Potter, who runs Cash Your Clutter – agrees with Sharon.

“You can go into Sainsbury’s and Argos and buy jewellery, ornaments and Christmas gifts – other shops in town that sell exactly those items have had to close because they’re not deemed as essential,” he said.

“If they started selling toilet rolls they would then be able to open, but they wouldn’t do that as it looks like they'd be exploiting a loophole and it would rightly lead to bad feeling. So why are supermarkets allowed to do it?

“Smaller retailers are losing out to the larger retailers just at a time when small shops are really struggling.”

Owner of Cash Your Clutter, Neil Potter, isn't happy that other shops in Penzance are selling what he's not allowed to
Owner of Cash Your Clutter, Neil Potter, isn't happy that other shops in Penzance are selling what he's not allowed to (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Neil said he was more than happy to close to be part of the second lockdown “circuit breaker” but feels it is totally unfair that other businesses can stay open selling the same items as him.

“Surely the rule should have been either all shops stay open or all should close?”



He added: “You can go into Argos and buy Christmas gifts which is putting extra strain on an already strained high street.”

Among the shops that smaller traders have questioned remaining open during the lockdown are Hotel Chocolat, The Range, Wickes, Curry’s, Majestic Wines, Costa and Starbucks, and M&S Clothing.

Kim Conchie, CEO of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have lobbied quite hard about this. It’s blatantly unfair and goes against the Government’s buy local message, Cornwall Council’s Keep It Cornish campaign and our own Choose Cornish campaign.

Kim Conchie is the CEO of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce
Kim Conchie is the CEO of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce (Image: Cornish Guardian)

"As an example, Sainsbury’s is allowed to sell a scented candle, but a candle shop in Arwenack Street, Falmouth, has to close.

“Our message would be keep the pound in your pocket and wait until local shops reopen in December and keep the Christmas spending for local retailers.”

Ann Vandermeulen, Cornwall Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, added: "It’s not a good Government policy that we’re operating under at the moment so it’s not ideal, but there are things the community can do together to combat that.

"If we can get the message out to all of the public in Cornwall to buy from their local independents and just hang on for a minute and wait until things open up again. Keep it Cornish and buy a good quality gift from your local retailer."

 

 

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