May 14, 2020
Wren Kitchens was given full clearance by Trading Standards to reopen their stores last week, kbbreview has learned. While this doesn’t give direct permission for other kitchen and bathroom showrooms to open, the inference is that anyone selling similar products is able to operate in the same way.
In a formal judgement dated April 30, 2020 and seen by kbbreview, Nottinghamshire Trading Standards – which has been the Primary Authority for Wren since January 2018 – says that Wren falls under the category of ‘homeware, building suppliers and hardware stores’ in the list of businesses exempt from closure in the official Coronavirus Regulations.
“On that basis, we are of the view that Wren Kitchens Limited benefits from the exemption…to the Regulations and accordingly, it is not required by those Regulations to either cease to carry on its business or to close its premises,” the judgment concludes.
This result only covers Wren showrooms in England.
The coronavirus regulations do not include any definitions of ‘homeware, building suppliers and hardware stores’ and it is this which has caused significant confusion among kitchen and bathroom retailers, many of whom had wrongly concluded that Wren had reopened without any permission to do so.
To reach the decision, Nottinghamshire Trading Standards had to seek other definitions in similar laws, in particular the meaning of ‘building supplies’ in the Construction Products Regulation 2011 and the Value Added Tax Act 1994.
“We have… concluded that, whilst the meaning of the term building supplies may well be wider, it would certainly include the types of goods defined [in these regulations] as construction products and building materials,” the document says.
The decision by Wren to reopen its showrooms angered many independent retailers who thought it gave them a commercial advantage while smaller businesses were still not allowed to let customers into their showrooms.
A small minority had already subsequently made their own decision to reopen on an appointment-only basis and take the risk, as they saw it, of being formally told to close again by authorities.
However, now it seems that Wren’s challenge of the vague regulations may just have cleared the way for all showrooms to open too if they choose to and are able to meet all social distancing measures as laid out in the latest government guidelines.
In this light, the Kbsa has made the decision to advise members that they can open their showrooms for business .
Its statement was made today after the Kbsa received its own information from trading standards and members received letters from their local MPs.
Kbsa national chair Richard Hibbert said: “Our members were naturally concerned that large national competitors were gaining a commercial advantage by opening their kitchen showrooms, when the government guidance seemed to indicate that they should remain closed.
“We therefor took action to clarify the government advice and on the basis of the replies received so far from local MPs, Trading Standard Offices and other relevant regulatory authorities, we have announced that retail members should feel free to open their premises to business, in accordance with the new health and safety measures.
“Since the start of the lockdown our members have rigidly followed the advice of the government and supported the efforts to protect the NHS and save lives. It was unacceptable that there was ambiguity in the market place and we are pleased that our efforts have resulted in members feeling confident to re-open their showrooms.”
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