VIDEO Clearer lockdown rules essential insists ProCook founder
By Mark Owen and Rob Freeman | 19th November 2020
The founder of Gloucester-based cookware firm ProCook has called for greater clarity over which shops can remain open during lockdown.
Daniel O'Neill said he has received mixed messages concerning the legislation about what constitutes essential stores.
Mr O'Neill, who founded the company 25 years ago and built it into an operation with a £54million turnover employing more than 550 staff, described it as "a crazy situation".
He said: "I felt when I first saw the classification that we would be able to open.
"The Government said hardware stores could remain open. The trade association we are in falls within hardware.
"I felt we fell within the hardware category so we would be able to remain open."
Sixteen of the company's 48 UK outlets remain open - 13 of them in England, including Cirencester and Evesham.
Its Gloucester Quays store, which has moved premises during the November lockdown in England, is closed because the centre is shut due to the restrictions.
"Considering the amount of time and money we spent making these places safe for people to shop, we felt we were offering a service," he said.
"People need cookware to prepare their food. People have said garden centres is for mental health, a lot of people enjoy cooking as part of their lives. And we need to eat.
"I didn't see the differential and felt we fell within the law."
His call for clarity comes amid ongoing discussions with Trading Standards departments who he said were also finding the rules unclear with changing advice on closing between regions.
"I will close if they instruct me to," he said. "It's £1,000 a day fine up to £10,000 and we just don't take enough money to make that viable.
"Supermarkets and garden centres have grown into selling lots of homewares as well as essential food and are completely at liberty to sell these different types of goods while specialist shops selling them are unable to open."
Official Government advice lists homeware among non-essential retail but hardware stores are listed among those able to remain open.
The confusion follows controversy during the lockdown in Wales last month which saw supermarket aisles selling non-essential goods cordoned off.
Last week The Booksellers Association appealed to the Government to reopen England's bookshops with other retailers like WHSmith and supermarkets which sell books remaining open.
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