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How retailers vie to be considered “essential” in a lockdown

26 Mar 2020

MAN DOES not live by bread alone, even in confinement. Sections of the world’s high streets have been spared from national edicts to shut up shop until covid-19 passes. Supermarkets, pharmacies and banks remain open just about everywhere. Other exemptions reflect which industries politicians feel voters cannot do without.

Is booze a basic need? Not in Pennsylvania or India, where alcohol retailers have been shuttered. France, predictably, has spared its wine merchants. Cavistes had originally been ordered to close, then permitted to stay open even as the French lockdown was tightened (cheesemongers count as food shops, in case you were wondering). Dutch and Californian cannabis dispensaries were also allowed to reopen. Weed sales in California reportedly tripled as tokers pondered life cooped up with their families.

Bookshops remain open in Belgium but not Britain, despite an appeal by James Daunt, boss of Waterstones, a big chain, that they were “no different to a supermarket or pharmacy”. By contrast, when France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, wanted to exempt booksellers, their association beseeched him to keep them closed—but also to stop Amazon and supermarkets from selling books.

Dry cleaners and launderettes have usually remained open, including in New York. But the need to...

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This content was originally published by The Economist: Business. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By The Economist: Business

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