Discount supermarket chains Lidl and Aldi have said that they are to stop selling non-essential items while the country is under Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.
The move comes as shoppers and retailers have been left as confused as stores after a garda crackdown on 'non-essential' retail items last weekend.
Aldi said in a statement that the Specialbuy promotions were going to be suspended.
They said: “In line with Government guidance, we have decided to postpone all non-essential product Specialbuy promotions.
“One-off Specialbuy offers on essential products will continue to be placed on sale each Thursday and Sunday.
“Thank you for your cooperation and patience during these challenging times.”
Similarly, Lidl has said that they will not be selling any items that are non-essential.
These items include things like Christmas decorations and toys.
In a lengthy statement, Lidl said: “Since the Government’s announcement outlining the new Level 5 restrictions, we have taken a number of steps to ensure we are fully compliant with the new regulations.
“We immediately cancelled the advertisement of all non-essential items and removed these items from our website.
“Unfortunately some of these items will still appear in our weekly leaflet, which has been printed a number of weeks in advance and we apologise to customers who are left disappointed by this.
“We will not be putting on sale any items that are deemed non-essential – e.g. Christmas decorations, casual clothing and toys.
“We are also in the process of removing from sale any residual stock of previous non-essential promotions."
Lidl said they "will continue to sell items that are classed as essential" such as items for upkeep of residence and businesses, safety clothing, repair and maintenance of cars and bikes in their middle aisles.
The supermarket said it hoped to “any cancelled items on sale at a later date, in line with restrictions being lifted and customers can keep up to date through our social media channels and website”.
Under the new regulations introduced on October 22, people can go to an essential retail outlet to buy items including food, beverages, fuel, medicinal products, essential items for the health and welfare of animals, or supplies for the essential upkeep of the home.
According to the Level 5 restrictions, “retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail should make arrangements for the separation of relevant areas”.
However, the new regulations do not specify whether clothing is essential.
Among the items that shoppers have been told they can not buy are baby grows, underwear, and winter gloves.
Isabel Keane was trying to buy a baby grow at Dunnes in Carrigaline, Co Cork when she saw that all of the clothes were sectioned off. Ms Keane, who is pregnant, described her frustration at the change in practice.
“It’s frustrating really, to be honest. I'm due in February, so I was hoping to pick up a few bits along the way. I understand that you can buy things online. But it's different with newborn baby stuff. You're going to want to get a feel for clothes.”
Social media has been abuzz with confused shoppers.
Sandra O'Meara, from Cork, tweeted: "Are shoes, socks, underwear, baby clothes not deemed essential? I can get a coffee in Costa, I can drive through McDonalds but I can't buy shoes because they aren't essential.
I have a question are shoes, socks, underwear, baby clothes not deemed essential? I can get a coffee in Costa, I can drive through McDonald's but I can't buy shoes because they aren't essential. But yet in Dunnes this morning I could buy candles, a bedside locker, even a— Sandra Cogan Williamson (@cogan_sandra1) October 25, 2020
“But yet in Dunnes this morning I could buy candles, a bedside locker, even a Christmas tree but not socks, or shoes or underwear. I really need the logic here explained to me. But I can order any of it online and collect it in-store. I'm very confused,” she tweeted
A spokesperson for Retail Excellence, the largest retail body in Ireland, confirmed that the lack of a definitive list is “adding to confusion”, while a garda spokesperson said gardaí are carrying out inspections on businesses and services, and will continue to "engage, explain, and encourage" with enforcement coming as a last resort.
A spokesperson for Tesco Ireland confirmed they stopped selling most clothes along with other items.
They said: “We’re adhering to Government guidelines and have closed our F&F clothing and home entertainment units across the country. We will continue to offer a very limited range of essential clothing items only for customers for example, schoolwear and some baby clothing.”