The government has issued a statement confirming that online retail during lockdown is “encouraged” amid confusion about non-essential goods.
Retailers including Amazon and Asos have been heavily criticised for keeping their fulfilment centres open during the pandemic and putting their staff at risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
As the majority of goods sold by Amazon and all of Asos’ items are non-essential, many have slammed both companies for continuing to trade.
However, both have hit back stating they are well within their rights to continue trading and demand for their goods was still high.
Now Secretary of State Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Alok Sharma has written an open letter to clear up confusion about its position on non-essential online sales.
“The Government has always been clear that online retail can continue to operate and is encouraged, and that postal and delivery services will continue to operate,” Sharma said.
“I want to pay tribute to all of you who continue to work tirelessly in the retail sector to ensure that the public can continue to access the goods they need in these challenging times.
“The retail sector is a vital lifeline for those self-isolating, and for all of us in adhering to the Government’s social distancing guidelines.
“The goods that you supply make a real difference to our ability to get through this national crisis together, from the food and medicines that people need, to items ordered online to support home working, education or entertainment.
“Other goods, like electronics and technology, ensure people can remain connected virtually to friends and family, and hardware suppliers are ensuring people have the parts they need to carry out home repairs.”
This came amid reports that online clothing sales plunged 23.1 per cent year-on-year in March, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.
IMRG insight director Andy Mulcahy said: “There is a bit of a myth going around at the moment that online sales are booming.
“It’s more accurate to say some online retailers are experiencing huge demand, outstripping even that seen over Black Friday, because so many people are in the exact same situation – i.e. stuck at home.
“That has created very lopsided demand among product categories.