Hardware stores can be accessed only for ‘emergencies’, says Minister

‘It’s not the case that hardware stores should be open to the general public’

Hardware stores may reopen as essential retailers during the Covid-19 pandemic but people can only visit them for “emergencies”, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys has said.

There has been confusion in relation to the matter in recent weeks after new legislation governing businesses during the Covid-19 crisis classified such stores as “essential retail outlets” that were permitted to stay open.

They were specifically described as “hardware outlets, builders’ merchants and outlets that provide, whether on a retail or wholesale basis”.

These include “hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, or supplies and tools essential for gardening, farming or agriculture purposes”.


Speaking on This Week on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sunday, Ms Humphreys said: “Hardware stores can operate. I want to stress, this is in a very limited and restricted way.

“It’s not the case that hardware stores should be open to the general public but if you need something as an emergency, for example, if you have a burst pipe in your house, or if there’s a hole in your roof and the rain is coming in, or the fridge gives up.

“Obviously, in emergency cases like that, you and your tradesman are going to need to be able to access certain materials from the hardware shops to fix the problem.

“So I want to stress in cases like that, it should be done by delivery or on an emergency call-up basis. So basically if there’s an emergency or you need to get something the hardware stores can provide that to you.”

Comments by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan last week that he did not consider hardware and gardening stores essential retailers led to confusion around the issue.

Asked on April 9th whether hardware stores and garden centres were essential at this time, Dr Holohan said “in my view they are not”.

It is understood that a number of hardware stores were told this week that they could reopen following advice from a Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) official.

The DBEI spokesman said on Saturday that any retail outlets that did open during the crisis should ensure physical distancing and public health guidelines were “rigorously implemented”.

Business owners should ensure adequate distancing between customers and shop assistants in line with public health guidelines, only let small groups into stores and manage queue control inside and outside the door, he added.

All essential retail outlets were encouraged to provide online services where that was possible and appropriate to minimise footfall, he said.

“The Minister and Dept are in regular contact with those involved in retail and the supply chain including through the Retail and Enterprise Forums.

“The Department wrote to members of the Retail Forum following last Wednesday’s meeting reiterating public health advice for essential retail.”

In a further clarification on Saturday evening the Department spokesman said: “The regulations relate to the right to move around and make journeys. Essential service workers are allowed to make journeys to pick up necessary supplies for emergency services they are providing.

“Hardware and other stores shouldn’t be open to the general public. Such outlets are not to open except on the emergency and/or delivery basis as set out in the updated retail services list. That list is unchanged.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter