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US Retail Introduces Non-Essentials Ban


New regulations will prevent big-box stores from selling non-essential items, including toys.

Although at present limited to a handful of areas in the US, some states have banned big-box stores and grocery chains from selling non-essential goods in an effort to reduce foot traffic and prevent the spread of coronavirus. Vermont and Michigan are among the first locations to enforce such restrictions.

Stores such as Costco, Walmart and Target, that have been allowed to stay open during lockdowns because they sell essential items such as groceries, have been told by local governments that they must not sell non-essential items during the pandemic. The rationale is that limiting the items available will stop shoppers from spending unnecessary time browsing the store, limiting their risk of exposure to the coronavirus. It has also been suggested that such a move would level the playing field for other stores that have been forced to close.

Certain departments, including toy aisles, must be roped off in store to restrict customer access.

Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development has directed retailers to “cease in-person sales” of products including “arts and crafts, beauty, carpet and flooring, clothing, consumer electronics, entertainment (books, music, movies), furniture, home and garden, jewelry, paint, photo services, sports equipment, toys and the like.”

While some shoppers have welcomed the move, differing opinions about what is essential versus non-essential are creating confusion and frustration among others.