Frank Pfeiffer

Belgian retailers 'creative' in sale of non-essentials

Retailers are proving to be exceptionally creative when it comes to skirting round the ban on the sale of non-essentials.  The sale of non-essentials is banned as part of Belgium’s drive to stem the spread of coronavirus by limiting people’s ability to be in contact with others.

Regulations during this second lockdown are more relaxed than in the first that started in March.  Non-essential travel is permitted, but the sale of non-essentials remains banned.  In contrast with Lockdown 1 retailers are allowed to organise collect services if they are forced to close and home deliveries too are permitted.  Door-to-door sales remain banned.

VRT Radio investigated the practices.  They found one lingerie store where the proprietor is trying to notch up sales without flouting the rules. 

“I’m not allowed to let customers try on items, but they can come and collect items at set times.  If people are worried about the right size, I make a decision by sight nowadays” the store owner intimated.

Some stores that can stay open have been obliged to cordon off non-essentials, but numerous radio listeners have confirmed that these items are still on sale if you really want to get hold of them.  Sometimes even a very persistent enquiry is not needed. “If an item can’t be ordered in the shop, go outside and give them a bell from the car park” is one listener’s advice.  Apparently, it often works, though flandersnews wouldn’t want to encourage anything illegal.

Chantal De Pauw of the economy department is in full command of the rules and regs and explains: “Shoes are non-essentials. They can only be delivered after they have been ordered.  They can also be collected in the open air, outside the shop.  It’s not our aim to move the shopping experience to the living room as there are restrictions on how many people can gather in your home. Door-to-door sales are banned.”

“Shops are only allowed to sell essentials.  Non-essentials can be ordered online or by phone and may be delivered to your home or collected from the exterior of the shop when you have an appointment.”

The also rules exist to prevent unfair competition. Ms De Pauw concedes that retailers will be eying solutions as the situation is so exceptional: “There is a grey zone in the regulations.  It’s sometimes difficult to come up with a ready answer, but there really is only one objective and that is to stop coronavirus.”

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