Retail

Wales lockdown confusion after Tesco tweet claims it cannot sell period products


Tesco has apologised after a customer was told that period products were not being sold in its Welsh stores because of the devolved administration’s ban on selling non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown.

There has been continued confusion and controversy over the ban on supermarkets selling certain items. About 60,000 people have signed a petition to the Welsh parliament calling for it to be reversed immediately.

On Monday Wales’s health minister, Vaughan Gething, said supermarkets could sell non-essential items to customers “in genuine need” at their discretion during the firebreak lockdown.

Gething said Welsh government ministers were meeting retailers to review the regulations and guidance and ensure “that it is being applied fairly and consistently”.

“If there are anomalies, we will look at whether the guidance needs to be revised or strengthened to make it clear that supermarkets have some discretion to sell to people who are in genuine need,” Gething said.

A sign in a Tesco store in Cardiff.



A sign in a Tesco store in Cardiff. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

His announcement came after a tweet sent from Tesco’s official account told a customer, who said a store had refused to sell them period pads, that it was government policy that these items not be sold in its stores.

Tesco has since deleted the tweet and published an apology, saying: “Of course sanitary products are essential items and are available to customers in all of our stores, including those in Wales. The reply to this customer was sent by mistake and we’re very sorry for any confusion caused.”

One store in Wales had cordoned off an area because of a break-in, leading to the initial confusion, Tesco said. It said the tweet in question was a standard response from its customer services team when responding to queries about non-essential items, and should not have been used.

The Welsh government confirmed that period products did not fall under the ban, saying: “Period products are essential. Supermarkets can still sell items that can be sold in pharmacies. Only selling essential items during firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops. It should not stop you accessing items that you need.”

Gething told a press conference in Cardiff: “I was very saddened to see this particular exchange on social media this morning from a supermarket telling a woman she could not buy period products. This is simply wrong.


Welsh government defends ban on non-essential item sale during ‘firebreak’ lockdown – video

“It’s an incorrect reading of the regulations and guidance. I am very sorry that this woman was given this information. Supermarkets are open and trading as are many other shops and are able to sell a wide range of everyday items that we all need.”

Under the firebreak lockdown, which began at 6pm on Friday and will run until 9 November, non-essential retail outlets including clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships must close. Supermarkets have been told they must only sell essential items to discourage people from spending more time than necessary in shops and to be fair to retailers who have to shut.

Data released from Springboard, which tracks footfall data, shows that numbers entering shops fell by 66% when the firebreak came in compared with the previous week.

Andrew Goodacre, the chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), said the new rules benefited online retailers such as Amazon at a time when high-street businesses were already struggling.

“We have just driven people now to the online experience and it will take ages, if we can, to wean them off it,” he said. “We know Amazon, Asos and other online retailers have good business models … they don’t need any help in securing their business … We have already seen a massive shift to clothing being bought online but we are now driving other product ranges there too.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Sanitary products are essential items and are available to customers in all of our stores in Wales. Due to a break-in, this area was closed temporarily in one store for a police investigation, but is now open again. The reply to this customer, which implied these products were non-essential, was sent by mistake and we’re very sorry for any confusion caused.”



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