With major retailers such as B&Q and Homebase reopening some stores, homeowners now have greater access to DIY materials than they have had since lockdown began. But Government restrictions limit purchases from these stores to those needed for essential DIY, it can be a little unclear as to what constitutes an ‘essential’ DIY task.
The government announced in March that DIY and hardware stores were classed as “essential retailers” during lockdown, yet some retailers including Selco and Huws Gray suspended trading with immediate effect. Meanwhile, Jewson and Travis Perkins were among the builders’ merchants that began offering only essential services (defined as infrastructure and services helping to combat the Covid-19 pandemic).
Now that B&Q, Wickes, Homebase and Selco have reopened their stores in some capacity, consumers can, in certain instances, enter stores again – here’s the important caveat, however – providing it is for essential materials.
What the Guidelines Say
The Government subsequently sought to clarify that the essential designation relates to the type of retailer that can be open and does not specify what products can and can’t be sold.
On 16 April, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) published a three-page document called What constitutes a reasonable excuse to leave the place where you live.
The guidelines (which apply in England only) stated these key points relating to DIY:
- You ARE permitted to collect essential DIY supplies to fix any faulty homeware, such as fences damaged by bad weather
- You are NOT permitted to leave your home to buy paint and brushes and other supplies to redecorate a kitchen, for example
- The regulations specify maintenance and upkeep. This does not extend to renovation and improvements (unfortunately this advice doesn’t refer to specific examples)
The guidance provides police officers with more clarity on interpreting lockdown restrictions, and for home improvers it is vital to be aware of these points.
Since lockdown measures were implemented, police have been observed fining shoppers outside The Range for not buying “essential” resources, while this week Cumbria police issued a warning to shoppers of the rules regarding travelling to DIY outlets.
The warning said: “We are seeing an increasing amount of traffic on Cumbria’s roads, especially around DIY outlets. Travelling to such outlets should be for tools and supplies for essential home and garden repairs, not for compost, plants and soft furnishings.”
Which Materials Are Retailers Selling?
This is where it’s easy to become confused by the situation, because retailers have very few, if any, restrictions on DIY materials they are selling in store.
B&Q, Homebase, Wickes and Selco all published statements addressing store guidelines and advice on purchasing orders following their decisions to reopen, but they are still selling items that would be described as “non-essential” products.
On Friday, B&Q confirmed that it had reopened all its 288 UK stores, and stated that products that you can normally buy and takeaway in store on the day are available to customers.
With regards to restrictions, a B&Q spokesperson said: “At our reopened stores, you can shop for a broad range of items that are available at the store to take away on the day. Currently, services such as kitchen and bathroom design, Valspar paint mixing, timber cutting and key cutting are not available.”
While B&Q is selling paint and paintbrushes and items the NPCC deems to be non-essential, it urges consumers to shop responsibly only for what is necessary.
Homebase revealed on 29 April that it would reopen an additional 50 stores, having previously reopened 20 stores in a recent trial. These stores reopened on Saturday, and like B&Q, Homebase has applied similar restrictions regarding which products are available in store.
While it is not able to offer kitchen design appointments, services such as Rug Doctor and Key Cutting or concessions, including Bathstore, there are otherwise no apparent restrictions on DIY materials.
Wickes announced last week that from April 30th, six of its stores would reopen as part of a new trial. Its kitchen and bathroom showrooms have closed, but there don’t appear to be any other restrictions.
Selco Builders Warehouse will reopen 42 of its 68 stores on Wednesday 6 May, the company has announced, however the stores will be Click & Collect and Click & Deliver only.
Selco is unable to offer its sheet material cutting, paint mixing, brick matching and kitchen design services until further notice, it says on its website, but also does not appear to have any product restrictions on delivery or collection.
What Should I Do?
If you require a tool or material to fix a problem at home that poses a danger to you and your family, then there shouldn’t be an issue with you travelling to a DIY store or home retailer to purchase this.
The rules regarding major home improvement work are less clear. Generally, self build and renovation work in England is being interpreted as acceptable under current regulations as long as sites are safe. If you are in the midst of a building, renovating or extending your home then consult with your tradespeople about the materials required and how best to obtain them.
Otherwise, if you are looking take on smaller tasks, such as redecorating your kitchen, then it’s best to order the necessary materials online and have them delivered.
If you have any doubt about whether or not you think an item you need is essential then contact your local store or builders’ merchant for their advice.