Aldi, Lidl bow to pressure to ban non-essential ‘middle aisle’ sales

Retailers to seal off shelves following warning of clampdown from Government

Shoppers at the   Aldi store  in Blackrock, Co Dublin.  File Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

Shoppers at the Aldi store in Blackrock, Co Dublin. File Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Aldi and Lidl have bowed to pressure to end the sale of “middle aisle” products deemed non-essential after the Government threatened a clampdown on retailers flouting lockdown guidelines.

The two grocery chains had resisted calls last week to seal off shelves selling children’s toys, clothes, homewares and other items as business leaders warned smaller shops obeying the rules could reopen in a campaign of disobedience.

Isme, which represents smaller traders, criticised the Government for facilitating a “massive transfer of wealth” from crippled small shops to profitable multiples.

In response, Tánaiste and Minister for Business Leo Varadkar warned big supermarkets against “not lawful” practices, saying the Garda would enforce the regulations banning the sale of non-essential items.

Tesco and Dunnes moved to block off access to products such as clothes, homeware, home entertainment and toys over the weekend.

It is understood gardaí visited a number of outlets arund the country to check with compliance.

Representatives of the major grocery retailers held a conference call with Minister of State Damian English, who has responsibility for the retail sector, on Wednesday for further clarity over the Level 5 restrictions.

Following the meeting, Aldi issued a statement saying it was postponing the sale of all non-essential goods in its weekly “special buys and middle-aisle promotions” for the duration of the tightened restrictions.

“In line with Government guidance, we have decided to postpone all non-essential product Specialbuys promotions,” a spokesman said.

“One-off Specialbuys offers on essential products will continue to be placed on sale each Thursday and Sunday. Thank you for your co-operation and patience during these challenging times.”

A spokeswoman for Lidl said it “will not be putting on sale any items that are deemed non-essential - eg Christmas decorations, casual clothing and toys.”

“We are also in the process of removing from sale any residual stock of previous non-essential promotions,” she added.

“We will continue to sell items that are classed as essential eg for upkeep of residence and businesses, safety clothing, repair and maintenance of cars and bikes etc in our middle aisles.

“We hope to put 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.”

The spokeswoman said some customers will be left disappointed as non-essential items advertised for sale in its weekly promotions leaflet, which are printed a number of weeks in advance, would no longer be available.

Last week, Lidl said if it was forced to remove non-essential items from sale “it would cause massive logistical issues and would result in our warehouses being overstocked, which would seriously compromise our ability to get essential food supplies in.”

“We can appreciate that this may seem unfair, however we have made every effort to cancel promotion of these items in media and online,” a spokeswoman said at the time.

An Aldi spokesman said at the time: “The vast majority of our range is made up of groceries and other essential household items that Irish families rely on.”

Under the Level 5 restrictions, shops which can open between now and the beginning of December include supermarkets, pharmacies, health and hardware stores, shops selling PPE, fuel providers, shops selling things deemed essential for the welfare of animals and shops selling products necessary for the “essential upkeep and functioning of places of residence and businesses”.

All retail outlets which can operate a click and collect system, home delivery or phone ordering can also continue to trade although people will not be able to visit the shops to browse the aisles.