Some convenience stores have been told to stop stocking Easter eggs, by “heavy handed” officials, according to the trade body the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS). As first reported by BBC News, there has been an attempt by police and local councils to restrict the range of goods shops can offer under new measures brought in by the novel coronavirus lockdown. The rationale? Easter eggs are not “essential.”
Last week, off-licenses, which is the category some convenience stores would fall under, were added to the list of “essential retailers” allowed to stay open during the (initial) three-week lockdown period in the U.K. It was reportedly in part because supermarkets the ACS called it “overzealous enforcement and a misreading of the rules” and told retailers to continue selling a full range of products for customers to choose from.
There have been no reports of supermarkets — which also stock Easter eggs — having been instructed on which goods should and should not remain on shelves. Indeed, the government has not published any official guidelines on which goods are and are not essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, hence the confidence with which ACS chief executive James Lowman could tell retailers to crack on as normal.
Lowman suggested that as well as this attempt to interfere with what can and can’t be sold as “essential” being daft, it had also been deeply inconvenient for shopkeepers. BBC News quotes him as saying, “it’s brought confusion, distracted retailers in the busiest weeks of their lives and increased the interactions between people at a time when the government is trying to minimise them.”
A retail analyst, Richard Hyman was similarly unsure of the logic: “Quite frankly, it sounds bonkers. This is a time when being excessively pedantic seems rather absurd,” he said.
Hyman, like Lowman, is right.
Like at least a 38 restaurants in a fully functioning city like London, this publication can say with confidence that right now, under these circumstances, when small comforts feel like massive luxuries, when people seek a semblance of normality within their own homes, if not outside, for many an Easter egg is essential.