AN ASDA in Wales refused to sell a mum school uniform for her five-year-old daughter, telling her it was "a non-essential item".
Little Amber Davies from Swansea had grown out of her old uniform and desperately needed new clothes after some kids returned to school in Wales last week.
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But when her mum and gran explained their situation to staff at Asda, Llansamlet, Swansea on Friday, they were turned away.
Amber's gran, Alison Clement, said: "Amber turned five last week and started back at school. She is very tall for her age and her last uniform was age seven to eight and did not fit her anymore.
"We went to the customer services desk at Asda and explained the situation.
"The staff were lovely but told us trading standards had been there the previous day and told them that under no circumstances were they allowed to sell non-essential items."
All of Wales is currently living under coronavirus 'Alert Level 4' which does not allow the sale of 'non-essential items'.
Where supermarkets would usually sell such products, they must cordon them off or hide them away from customers – a rule which does not apply in England.
But despite the inconvenience, Alison, 55, said she doesn't blame supermarket staff.
"I don't blame the staff at all," she said.
"They've been put in an impossible situation and have to make the call about what is and isn't essential and then have to take the brunt."
Trying their luck, Alison and Amber's mum went to Tesco the folllowing day, where staff let them buy the uniform.
"We wanted to get her pinafore, a cardigan and some tights along with some trousers for my grandson who starts school soon," said Ms Clement.
"We went to Tesco customer services and explained the situation. The staff member we spoke to called a colleague who wrote down a list of what we needed, then brought the items to us so we could have a look.
"We were told by them that we weren't the first ones going there for the same reason."
As it stands, baby clothes are the only clothing items stated as "essential" by the Welsh Government.
However, a shop can sell someone non-essential items for "emergency or compassionate" reasons.
As adults we can make do without buying clothes for a long time, but children can't – they're changing and growing all the time.
If a supermarket is caught breaking the rules, they can be issued with compliance notices from the council and may be fined – a figure not limited on the statutory scales.
Ms Clement said: "How can we buy tobacco but not essential clothes for our children?
"As adults we can make do without buying clothes for a long time, but children can't – they're changing and growing all the time."
A spokesman for Asda said: "Throughout the pandemic we have followed the government guidance to ensure our stores are safe. That means that we are currently not permitted to sell school clothing in our store in Swansea.
"However we do recognise that some customers may need to purchase non-essential items on emergency and compassionate grounds –in these cases we will allow customers to purchase these items.
"We also offer click and collect and home delivery through George.com, so customers can shop our full range online.”
A spokesman for Tesco said they agree that school uniform is considered non-essential by the Welsh Government, but that in this situation they felt it was correct to sell uniform to Amber's family.
“School uniform is classed as non-essential by Welsh Government and these items are currently cordoned off at our Llansamlet Extra store," they said.
"However, the current rules allow us to sell these items if there are emergency or compassionate grounds for doing so. Once the customer explained to our store colleagues that she needed to purchase the items on that basis we were very happy to help her.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “All retail businesses can offer click and collect services, which enable people to buy items they need without having to go into shops.
"Supermarkets and other shops selling multiple types of product are also able to sell products that are not on general sale at alert level four if they are needed in an emergency or on compassionate grounds.”
Non-essential retail is currently closed in England, although some 'non-essential items' can be found in supermarkets, which remain open.
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