Wait…could Wren STILL open in lockdown?

In yet another twist to the Wren lockdown saga, Trading Standards has told kbbreview that the national retailer might still be able to open its showrooms despite the new government rules ordering kitchen and bathroom showrooms to close.

Nottinghamshire County Council – which has been the trading standards Primary Authority for Wren since the start of 2018 – said in a statement to kbbreview that if Wren opened showrooms it’s likely that they would satisfy the new government guidance.

“Nottinghamshire County Council has made Wren aware of the requirements of the Regulations that govern the current Covid lockdown and the latest Government guidance,” said Mark Walker, group manager for Trading Standards at Nottinghamshire County Council

“The regulations permit various types of businesses to remain open. Nottinghamshire County Council cannot speak for Wren but if they choose to keep their showrooms open, we anticipate they will be able to show how that meets the latest requirements.”

While Nottinghamshire would give no further details, the new government guidance from last week specifically states that kitchen and bathroom showrooms ‘open to the public’ must close.

However, ‘building merchants and building services’ can remain open, and this is the classification that saw Wren, and subsequently thousands of other KBB retailers, open their showrooms during the two national lockdown periods.

As of writing, Wren showrooms are officially closed and its website is allowing for virtual design appointments only. There is no indication that they plan to invoke this loophole and formally shut the doors on November 21.

However, this does introduce another level of ambiguity into the lockdown rules that some KBB retailers may feel is worth testing if it means they can open.

But, while Nottinghamshire is normally the Primary Authority for Wren, that does NOT cover coronavirus rules. This means a ruling by Nottinghamshire would only cover that area and not the rest of the country.

“Under these Regulations local authorities can only currently act in relation to premises that fall within their area,” Mark Walker said. “There is no scope within the Regulations for any one local authority to require Wren to close all their showrooms.”

So if Wren or any other KBB showroom wanted permission to open they would have to obtain it from the local authority governing each individual premises.

In Wren’s case the Nottinghamshire guidance would only cover its Nottingham and Mansfield stores.

Kbbreview also understands that, as far as Nottinghamshire is concerned, the government regulations do not specify restrictions based on who the customer is –  the showroom is either open or not so there would be no requirement to limit customers to trade-only despite being allowed to open as ‘building merchants and building services’.

Equally, that interpretation would also rule out the need for by-appointment-only too.

The current national lockdown ends on December 2 and all shops and showrooms are permitted to open as long as they follow Covid guidelines.

Wren has not responded to requests from kbbreview for comment.

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