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. The government announced in March that DIY and hardware stores were classed as “essential retailers” during lockdown, but at the time it did not refer to which products, if any, were classed within an essential category.
Some retailers including Selco and Huws Gray suspended trading with immediate effect; 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), while others ran Click & Collect and Home Delivery services on whichever materials were available.
Now that B&Q, Wickes, Homebase and Selco have reopened their stores in some capacity, consumers can, in certain instances, enter stores again. This is what you need to know about what materials are available and what the guidelines say regarding in-store purchases.
What the Guidelines Say
On 16 April, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and College of Policing (COP) 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 has since provided police officers with more clarity on interpreting lockdown restrictions, and for home improvers it is vital to be aware of these points.
However, the government has 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.
Homebuilding & Renovating understands that the NPCC/COP guidance has been withdrawn for redrafting, and that there is no list of “essential” items which can be purchased. This withdrawal has not yet been officially confirmed, however.
Police have previously been observed fining shoppers outside The Range for not buying “essential” resources, but officers have since been advised that this is not appropriate, and they should not intervene regarding in-store purchases.
Which Materials Are Retailers Selling?
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, with only minor restrictions in place.
Last week, 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.”
B&Q does however urge 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 is noissue 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.
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.