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No cigarettes, no household chemicals: Do's and don'ts of Ukrainian supermarkets during lockdown

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

During the lockdown (January 8-24), Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers banned the sale of non-food products in supermarkets
14:00, 6 January 2021

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From January 8 to January 25, household chemicals, tools, clothes, light bulbs, or batteries can only be ordered online, paying not only for the goods, but also for their delivery. The ban also includes cigarettes, tobacco sticks, and smoking liquids. Regarding a number of positions, the paragraphs of the decree are written out vaguely: representatives of retail chains do not fully understand whether they will be able to sell alcohol, shampoo, shower products, etc.

However, there is no need to rush to make purchases in reserve: representatives of the retail business have sent numerous appeals to the government and expect that this rule will either be clarified or completely canceled at a government meeting on January 6. Healthcare Minister Stepanov has already hinted today that the Cabinet will discuss this issue.

Related: Entrepreneurs rally at Verkhovna Rada against lockdown, introduction of cash registers

Ban for selling cigarettes but what about alcohol?

According to the clause of the government decree No. 1236, from 8 to 25 January on the territory of Ukraine, offline sale of non-food products is prohibited. From January 8, it will be impossible to buy household chemicals, tools, clothes, light bulbs, or batteries in supermarkets. They can only be purchased online. Non-food markets will also not work during the period specified by the government.

Stores are allowed to sell food, medicinal products, medical supplies, hygiene products, communications, feed, veterinary drugs, plant protection products and seeds. "If the decree comes into force, at least 300 items in stores will be banned. We will have to remove almost a third of the assortment from the shelves," a representative of one of the largest all-Ukrainian retail chains selling food and non-food products essential goods explained.

Related: Public transport to work in Kyiv during lockdown, - mayor

It is not entirely clear to which group of goods alcohol will be classified and whether it will be possible to sell it in supermarkets. None of the retail chains managed to get an unambiguous answer to this question: most of the interlocutors suggested that the sale of alcohol, most likely, is not subject to restrictions.

The sale of tobacco products from January 8 in supermarkets will definitely be banned. As far as specialized tobacco kiosks are concerned, it is not completely clear: on the one hand, the regulation of the government should apply to retail outlets that "receive visitors" but on the other hand, the kiosks also "receive visitors."  Retail chains do not fully understand how to implement a government decree so as not to run into fines.

A number of representatives of retail chains interpret the provisions of the regulation in such a way that prohibited goods not only cannot be traded but generally kept on the shelves on the trading floor. In this case, it will be possible to give up on sales from online stores. "It might happen if a person visits the site, places an order, but the store cannot physically complete it, because this product is not on the shelves at that moment. It may not be in the warehouse either, because it makes sense to stock up on prohibited goods (freezing the circulating capital) without understanding how long the ban will last and how it will be extended, no," a representative of the trading network explained. He clarified that online orders, which are made through the store floor, are collected directly in the halls, and not in warehouses. One of the largest delivery operators zakaz.ua (works with 9 largest retail chains) also collects orders in the hall. This means that even those stores that have their own Internet sites will fall out of competition with specialized sites.

Related: Lockdown causes more damage than virus itself, - Trump

The wording of the government decree is rather vague, and the authorities are in no hurry to concretize them. It is not entirely clear whether the "green light" for hygiene products means permission to trade in soap? But how? In bars or also liquid? Can shampoo be sold? What about toilet paper, shower gel, toothpaste, panty liners, at worst, because they also belong to hygiene products?

Not to come cheap

The ban on the sale of non-food products against the background of the fact that the sale of food products is allowed does not fit with common sense, representatives of retail chains say. According to them, it is necessary either to prohibit everything or not to go to such half-measures.

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Unofficially, market participants said that an online meeting between business representatives and chief sanitary doctor Viktor Lyashko took place last week. And even the main "ideologist of anti-epidemic measures" could not explain the logic of the government's fight against the coronavirus. "He said that by introducing such measures, the government did not want to aggravate the conflict with private entrepreneurs," one of the meeting participants told 112.ua.

It turns out that they defended private entrepreneurs, who would still be out of work and bargaining, but played up to the Internet sites. The government's decision puts stationary supermarkets in a discriminatory position in comparison with the promoted online stores, whose offers of non-food products will be indexed in the first place. "Online shopping will have the advantage of making a profit," the European Business Association (EBA) said in a statement.

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Representatives of retail chains are outraged that as a result of the ban, the government will incur quite real losses (from the ban on the sale of part of the assortment), which will amount to millions of hryvnia both for the retailers themselves and for their suppliers, including representatives of small and medium-sized businesses. The cream of the situation will be taken off by large Internet sites that have never been offline.

For ordinary consumers, innovations will also become a pretty penny: when placing orders online, they will pay not only for the product itself but also for its delivery. Against this background, the load on delivery services and couriers will significantly increase.

“The company has everything it needs to cope with a possible growing workload during the January lockdown. Moreover, the upcoming lockdown for Nova Poshta is not the first test. Last year, the company had two spikes in increased demand - during a tough quarantine in the spring and during the New Year holidays, when the volume of delivery increased by 30%. Then Nova Poshta accumulated all its capacities in order to promptly deliver to the Ukrainians all the most necessary - food, medicines and other essential goods,” Nova Poshta representatives assured.

Related: Stores struggle to abide to new lockdown rules in Ukraine

It is impossible not to abide by the norms of the government decree. Their observance will be closely monitored by the National Police and the State Food and Consumer Service. They have a lot of experience - just remember the weekend quarantine. In just one weekend in November, police drew up 406 administrative reports for violating quarantine restrictions. This was reported by the National Police. Based on the results of inspections against officials, administrative protocols were drawn up under Part 1 of Art. 44-3 (violation of quarantine rules) of the Code of Administrative Offenses, with the imposition of fines up to 6,000 USD. Ordinary employees were also fined. The police also stopped the work of institutions that did not comply with the requirement to stop activities during the quarantine, and all their visitors were taken out into the street.

Representatives of business and retail chains, whose interests are directly affected by the government's decision, do not lose hope that the clause on the ban on the sale of non-food products will be canceled this week or at least clarified.

Most of them have come together under the auspices of the American Chamber of Commerce and EBA. The American Chamber of Commerce urged the Cabinet of Ministers to revise the decree №1236. EBA issued a call during the lockdown "to allow the sale of non-food products if the consumer has already entered the retail store."

Related: Information about ban of sales of non-grocery goods during lockdown is fake, - Minister of Health

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