A fifth of retailers admit to opening showrooms despite lockdown rules

Just over a fifth of KBB retailers admitted to opening their showrooms during recent lockdowns despite Government restrictions stating non-essential retail had to close, a kbbreview survey has revealed.  

The shocking results show that, rather than deliberately breaking the law, many retailers simply didn’t understand the rules.

The majority of retailers that admitted to opening their showrooms during periods of national lockdown said that they did so because they supply the trade – which had been classed as essential by the Government – and so continued working through lockdowns on an ‘appointment-only basis, while adhering to strict Covid-19 safety guidelines’. 

However, kitchen and bathroom showrooms were not allowed to open to anyone – whether they were trade consumer. Equally, opening by-appointment-only was also illegal during most of the lockdowns.

Several retailers admitted to opening their showrooms because they felt it was unfair that independents were forced to close when national DIY chains were allowed to open as they were seen as supplying mainly tradesmen.

One retailer said: “We opened by appointment only and for essential supply. Other companies were doing the same and the sheds were even advertising product.”

Another said: “We could hardly turn away customers who wanted to buy a kitchen when others were still selling.”

Others said that they continued to open by appointment only – during lockdowns – because their showrooms were not in high-street locations and so had limited footfall. 

However, some retailers admitted that they knew showrooms should be closed but that they opened regardless as they needed to keep their business afloat.

“It was the only way we could take payments if our clients wanted to pay by credit card,’ one said. “Also some clients wanted to come to the showroom to see samples and finalise their choices. We dropped samples off to clients but some wanted to see the full range we had to offer and this was the only way they could do this.”

The Government began implementing lockdowns across the UK last March to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The last lockdowns were put in place in January this year and lasted until April – when retailers got the green light to open after restrictions were lifted as the UK’s Covid exit roadmap was put into play.

Although what these restrictions meant for KBB showrooms was sometimes misleading and open to interpretation, by the time of the second lockdown in November 2020 the Government had included KBB showrooms on its list of non-essential retail and they were ordered to close.

The online survey was carried out with a sample of 232 KBB retailers answering anonymously.

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