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'Curtains can wait': Why the government is allowing hardware - but not homeware - stores to re-open

Homeware stores will have to wait until a later phase to re-open.

Image: Leon Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THIS AFTERNOON, TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar announced that the country would be moving to Phase One of re-opening from Monday

It is the first of five phases it is hoped can be progressed through this summer, as Ireland opens back up and people return to work following the Covid-19 restrictions. 

Constructions workers and outdoor workers such as gardeners can return to work from Monday.

There are also a number of outlets that will be permitted to re-open during Phase One – with Phase Two due on 8 June at the earliest. 

Included among this list of retailers are the likes of opticians, car dealers and IT and phone sellers. 

And, while hardware stores are permitted to re-open, homeware stores are not. 

This is despite homeware stores being mentioned in the initial Phase One section of the roadmap document published by the government two weeks ago. It’ll mean that the likes of Ikea – which said just yesterday it would re-open next week – cannot re-open in Phase One.

homeware Homeware included in Phase One in the government's roadmap. Source: Gov.ie

But garden centres and hardware stores – even those that sell some homeware – will be able to reopen.

The matter appeared to cause some initial confusion – given that hardware shops often sell homeware products and vice versa – when the question was put to those at today’s press conference.

Between the three of them – the Taoiseach, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys and Minister for Health Simon Harris – they sought to explain the distinction.

Humphreys said: “First of all hardware… hardware shops are allowed to open. In terms of homeware, they’re not allowed to open so it’s fairly simple there.

Now I know you’re saying that there are hardware shops that have homeware. But if you’re predominantly a hardware shop, you can obviously stay open and sell all of the products.

After questions on other topics were fielded, the hardware/homeware issue was raised again.

“Only those stores who are providing homeware incidental to their primary retail functions are to reopen in phase one,” Humphreys said.

“It is not intended that those stores that classify themselves as homeware and primarily sell items such as furniture, curtains or bedding should open.

“So if you have a hardware shop that happens to have a small homeware section, you are allowed to open. If you are a homeware shop and that is your main line of business – you cannot open.”

Minister Harris came in then to highlight the medical reasoning behind the distinction:

“I think we need to remind ourselves as to what we’re doing here. The advice from the Irish government informed by public health experts is that you should stay at home. So we’re expanding the areas in which you can go out.”

The Minister then attempted to close the matter with more clarity. 

“If you need to buy a new pair of curtains, it can wait a couple of weeks,” Harris said. “If you need to buy a new bed cover, it can wait a couple of weeks. 

It’s different to needing to buy and buy hardware, as the Taoiseach said obviously there’ll be hardware shops that sell a bit of homeware and we get that… Now is not the time to decide ‘I’m going to dickie up the house and buy a new pair of curtains’.

Varadkar then interjected to say the primary reason hardware is being allowed to re-open is building supplies for construction.

“We couldn’t really go ahead with construction and not allow people to buy the items necessary for construction which is hardware,” he said, adding that homeware will have to wait for a later phase. 

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A government statement issued at the time of the speech explained it further.

It said: “Only stores providing homeware incidental to primary retail functions set out in the original Essential Services list are to reopen in Phase 1. It is not intended that stores which might also classify themselves as homeware, but primarily sell items such as furniture, bedding, curtains, kitchenware, crockery or other such items etc. should open.”

Staff at Ikea were told this morning that it wouldn’t be opening its outlets on Monday, and the company has confirmed it in a statement this evening.

A spokesperson said: “Following the Government’s announcement today (15 May), our store and Order and Collection Point remain closed for the time being.”

In every business permitted to re-open on Monday, they’ll be expected to implement physical distancing measures and all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of staff and customers. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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