‘You can buy clothes from any garden centre’: shop owner demands to stay open in lockdown

Sarah Simonds, who owns Artichoke boutique in Swaffham. Pic: Simon Finlay/EDP

Sarah Simonds, who owns Artichoke boutique in Swaffham. Pic: Simon Finlay/EDP - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk boutique owner has slammed a lockdown loophole that lets garden centres and supermarkets sell non-essential items - while independent shops remain closed.

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I would not be sharing this link if shops selling essential items were only allowed to do that, however this is not the case. The fact that you can buy clothing, electrical items & gifts from any garden centre, an M & S that sells food on the same floor & most supermarkets defies logic if the government wants us to stay at home. What it is also doing is taking away business from independent shops that in normal times form part of the social cohesion of your lives. We are the ones who share your joy & offer a shoulder to cry on when you need one. We provide employment & sustain many British jobs in our supply chains. We are not able to do this if we are forced by the government to close our doors & our business handed on a plate by the same government to our competitors. I am being paid £1300 to close my door for the four week lockdown, my turnover last November was twenty times that. As retailers, the income we earn in November ensures that we have enough money in the bank to pay our bills in January & February as well as now. My biggest concern is that once we are allowed to open the Christmas trade will be over as people would have bought not only from Amazon but also garden centres, supermarkets & our local M & S. I understand the premise behind this second lockdown & if shops selling essential items were only doing that, would not be asking you to consider this petition. All we are asking for is a level playing field. Link in our bio

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Sarah Simonds, who opened Artichoke in Swaffham’s Market Place four years ago, took all her stock home in the last lockdown to promote her business online.

But this time, she has launched a petition to be allowed to open - because others are exploiting the rules to sell non-essential items alongside the essentials.

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Sarah Simonds, who owns Artichoke boutique in Swaffham. Pic: EDP

Sarah Simonds, who owns Artichoke boutique in Swaffham. Pic: EDP - Credit: Archant

But this time, she has launched a petition to be allowed to open - because others are exploiting the rules to sell non-essential items alongside the essentials.

She posted an appeal for support, saying: “I would not be sharing this link if shops selling essential items were only allowed to do that, however that is not the case.


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“The fact you can buy clothing, electrical items and gifts from any garden centre, and M&S that sells food on the same floor and most supermarkets defies logic if the government wants us to stay at home.

“What it is also doing is taking away business from independent shops that in normal times form part of the social cohesion of your lives.

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“We are the ones who share your joy and offer a shoulder to cry on when you need one. We provide employment and sustain many British jobs in our supply chains. We are not able to do this if we are forced by the government to close our doors and our business handed on a plate by the same government to our competitors.

“I am being paid £1,300 to close my door for the four-week lockdown, but my turnover last November was 20 times that. As retailers, the income we earn in November ensures that we have enough money in the bank to pay our bills in January and February as well as now.”

Mrs Simonds’ plea comes after the government had to revise rules which had allowed stores like M&S, deemed an ‘essential retailer’ because it stocks food, to also sell clothing and homeware.

Updated lockdown guidance states grocery retailers can sell ‘non-essential’ goods only if they are stocked in the same aisles as food, but if the items are on a separate floor, the store must close the area.

Mrs Simonds said: “I understand the premise behind this second lockdown and if shops selling essential items were only doing that, I would not be asking you to consider this petition. All we are asking for is a level playing field.”

The petition has gained support from others in the independent fashion business such as Latte Clothing, which posted: “Well done for doing this. Your words are concise and thoroughly logical.”

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