Online retail is still open and encouraged during Coronavirus lockdown

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There have been many questions already as to whether marketplace sellers can continue to operate. The advice from Government is clear – Online retail is still open and encouraged.

“On 23 March the Government, stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives. All non-essential premises must now close. Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance on Friday 20 March. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.”
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

That being the case, each online retail business should consider how they keep themselves and their staff safe. It may be that you take the difficult decision to close down your business for the next few weeks or months, or you may decide to continue. Closing may even be enforced if you run out of staff – for some this will be because they can’t safely travel to work or have children to look after and sadly inevitably for some it will be through illness.

There are two polarising views on the decision to keep online retail open by the government. Some take the view that their goods are non-essential and by offering them for sale they are inevitably adding to the risk of spreading the virus and no matter how small a risk it’s a step they believe morally no one should take. Others point out that with millions of people now stuck at home, many of whom have already demonstrated an idiotic inability to comply with stay at home advice, that there’s a need to keep people occupied and online shopping offers the solution. Everyone will have their own opinion.

Further Reading

If your business remains open, read:

45 Responses

  1. I think it’s important to make the following distinction.

    If you have arranged a postal collection, where your parcels are collected from your home or premises, in accordance with recently revised health and safety advice, there is very little risk.
    This is the kind of arrangement that I suspect our government envisages.

    However, having possibly tens of thousands of sellers, many of whom will statistically be infected, queuing up inside post offices, perhaps in a food shop, or a chemist, means the risk is far from clear, and might indeed be significant.
    This is the kind of arrangement that I suspect our government doesn’t want see.

    That is a distinction that must surely be obvious to everyone.
    That’s all I have to say.

  2. Very irresponsible. Online business should only be operating if you are shipping ESSENTIAL items – food, medicine or PPE. Everything else is not essential. Stop putting money first. It is no good when you are dead.

  3. Barry — the government seems to disagree with you. One of the things that will keep people at home and keeping quarantine is the ability to shop and be entertained.

    Are the people running Netflix an essential service? Hardly doctors are they? But I’d say their efforts will keep the country safer. Dig for victory, my friend.

  4. I suppose it depends on what type of business and how big you are.
    The products I sell have seen a massive decline in sales – so I can now do the orders and pack them on my own. I leave home and go to the office with no contact except the collecting Parcelforce driver who keeps 2m distance.

    I go home.

    I could close, but I am still selling a few bits to help with bills and more importantly my sanity – plus I can do work on our website and in our warehouse that means we come back fitter as a business when all this madness is over.

    Stay safe everyone and remember to be kind always.

  5. I find this one difficult and just decided what to do. On one hand I spend all day delivering online shopping (my hours have gone from 20 week) up to 43. Food is essential and some of the people are totally isolated and very frightened, am not sure how our lot are doing it but I think we loosening delivery slots and just going to be AM and PM from Monday to get more out. We are 30% down on drivers on top (anyone who needs a temp job they are crying out)
    Then I also sell a ton of video games (another video games seller we kinda work with says eBay is booming for him), a lot of bored people indoors. I feel like am missing a lot of sales and it is money we do need badly and a big dint on our income (I know most full time sellers been their will be even worse)…

    I was going to get the wife (who’s nice employer finally sent them to homework which I think is important now) to sort its but I don’t want her in the post office with mail sacks or out anymore than possible. Plus Scotland has even tougher rules about what it classes essential.
    Website has been down for a week now and GAME and eBay on vacation mode, so I will just cancel eBay subscription tomorrow and start up furnishings hopefully get back to semi normality.

  6. It’s just such a terrible move from the Government puting lives at risk due to avoid people’s boredom during quarantine.
    At the warehouse I’m currently working at , the only measures applied have been to close down the food hall and all places where you’d rest during break time. But with thousand workers at a non stop warehouse this is impossible to protect the workers from te social distancing. So this brings a lot of anxiety and fright for those of us who are unseen and unprotected by a system who wants to save lives but is thinking of money. Stay safe everyone!

  7. Online should continue just as TV should continue, think of all the people working in that still. We have to give people something or they will go mad and will go back outside. Britain is a nation of shoppers so let them shop. It’s junk saying there’s queues of people dropping off parcels at shops, my local shop has always let me and other sellers with more than a couple of parcels just drop them all off, I’m in there less than 30 secs and I keep my distance.

  8. Last time we watched netflix we sat on our arse in front of a telly
    We did not need to keep 2 meters from the telly
    We were fairly sure it was virus free?

  9. I’d rather go to my post office 2 – 3 times a week for 5 – 10 minutes at a time (when it is quiet) than spend two hours a week queuing / shopping for groceries at Sainsburys or Tesco where it is often very busy.

    Are you still food shopping Jim or are you avoiding that as well.

  10. I run a first aid & PPE shop on eBay and work from home – my garage is my warehouse. I dithered for ages wondering how to carry on with deliveries when the lockdown came into place. I use Click and Drop and go to my local Post Office every day especially for parcels and international orders so that I get a receipt and I didn’t want to carry on doing this – the large letter packets can go in my post box 2 doors down.

    As I had 3 international orders yesterday I went to my local Post Office only to be told they weren’t accepting parcels over the counter at the moment and the other local PO closed at 3pm so in the end I put the orders in the post box and I’m hoping they don’t get lost on the way, otherwise I have no paperwork now to put in any lost claims.

    Last night I changed all my parcel listings to Hermes only delivery because they will collect from me and stopped all international parcel deliveries. When I was talking to my local postie this morning (from a safe distant) he has kindly offered to collect any of my post when he deliveries my letters in the morning. At the time I thought that was a great idea but then I realised I’m still not getting a receipt so back to the drawing board.

  11. Ffs
    Good grief get your head out of your arse
    And stop inventing excuses and justification to flout the stay at home and save lives ,Instructions

  12. We’re online clothing retailers and decided to stay open. there’s 8 of us. 2 people are warehouse only so can’t work from home but everyone else is now working from home. We have an 8000 sq ft warehouse and have made one of them pick only and the other pack only. They stay well away from each other. Couriers are advised to drop off parcels well away from the staff and that they won’t sign for parcels.

    I don’t see any harm with this. Why should we put even more burden on the economy when we can safely continue to operate?

  13. Last I heard the instructions were to stay at home save lives,
    unless your key worker or providing essential service
    Deluding ourselves Were essential when we know were not is selfish

  14. Bob ignore Jim the resident Troll and go with government advice. Online retail is still open, unless of course Jim has just become Prime Minister and wishes to tell us otherwise.

  15. Number of cases
    As of 9am on 24 March 2020, a total of 90,436 people have been tested, of which 82,359 were confirmed negative and 8,077 were confirmed positive. 422 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

  16. After following the news today, it might be worth sellers looking at the following article:

    The comments from numerous postal workers, fearful of their health, make a direct plea to sellers shipping non-essential items.

    “the responsibility of being a key worker is frequently undermined by the nature of the items being delivered”

    “We are currently delivering video games and leaflets for local restaurants, when instead we could be ones who reduce the requirement for the elderly to go out to get food. The infrastructure we have can be used for good, but delivery of non-essentials must not come before our health.”

    “We could be safe from this virus. But because the Royal Mail see Mother’s Day cards as essential work, apparently we all have to risk our lives and the safety of the country now.”

    “You’re out exposing yourself and your families to this deadly virus for the ‘essential work’ of Screwfix magazines and eBay jewellery. Yes, we should have a skeleton service for coronavirus and other essential mail – medical supplies, groceries and toiletries. All other services should stop.”

    Although the shipping of non-essential items has not been banned (at least not yet), I think it’s important to recognise the risk to postal workers, and the pressure these non-essential parcels are placing on an operation which is, quite obviously, working hard, under difficult conditions, to make sure that essential shipments get delivered.

  17. Stop shipping crap!!

    We are busy enough with the essential stuff without lugging lawnmowers, trampolines and sundry other rubbish around.

    Try to remember that couriers have lives and families too.

  18. FAO The Courier,

    Worth remembering that these non essential things are the things that pay you a living year in year out.

  19. No, none of the items you mentioned, I just wasn’t fond of your first comment.

    The government want the economy to keep going as much as possible, online businesses are allowed to continue, if this changes online retailers will just have to accept it.

    It’s that simple.

  20. Of course the virus being aware of the governments advice Renders postal workers and family’s immune

  21. Nick,

    I didn’t miss the point the courier is making.

    Out of interest could you give me a list of the essential supplies the likes of Royal Mail / Parcelforce and the other major couriers are currently delivering ?

    For the record I think most reasonable business people should expect some delay to their deliveries etc at times however at this stage I don’t think there is an argument that Royal Mail and couriers are currently flat out with essential supplies.

    At this stage the government wants as much of the UK economy to continue as possible.


  22. FAO Nick,

    Put some meat on the bone.

    You are saying couriers are very busy delivering essential supplies.

    Tell me more.

  23. my postman begged me to carry on selling – it keeps him in work – he’s terrified of not paying his bills – he said the post office have stringent measures in place and can cope with the workload – oh and the government have said this too – –

    except some geezer called jim down the pub

    remember we will need an economy to come back to

  24. The argument over whether a business should be open or not because of what it sells is too simplified.

    Its more to do with If the business can be run in a safe manor in the current circumstances.

    The overriding stipulation is social distancing and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.

    Its a simple decision tree:

    Can that employee do their work from home – Yes, ok get them to work from home.


    Are they in an “At Risk Group” – Yes – Send home on Furlough


    Can measures be put in place to ensure social distancing can be done – No – close down business and send staff on Furlough.


    Put those measures in place.

    And more importantly, make sure they are adhered too.

    Its simple Health & Safety, usually only let down by Humans.

    The main reason that the government has had to shut public places down is that the public cant follow simple rules, cant work out what 2 meters looks like, think that they will be fine, a very British trait!!

    I popped into town yesterday to get a replacement mop, and in that 10 minute job, i came across 1 person stood still in the middle of a 1 meter wide path having a chat on his phone, so i had to go into the road to keep my distance. Round the corner i saw a few people walking towards me on the path so again i had to go into the road, it wasn’t a big road and i thought, why don’t people use one side or the other in the direction of traffic, therefore mitigating passing by each other, a simple solution i thought. The next part of my journey was in a pedestrianized part of the town which is quite wide and too my astonishment, there was one couple walking side by side straight down the middle, so it didn’t matter if you were one side or the other, social distancing rules would be broken. I thought Wilko’s was fine, not busy, was able to get me mop, and join the not very long single queue to wait for the next available till whilst ensuring that social distancing was adhered too. I used con-tactless to pay and didn’t have to compromise social distancing too much as the till aisle is probably only a meter aware from the member of staff, but just walked straight through it. Similar journey on the way back to coming, although i did have a mop to swing around my head to show people what Social Distancing looked like 🙂

    With a lot of food places closed, perhaps Food Inspectors could be used to go around business still open and check that they are safe for their employees.

    I think it would be unfair to close down businesses that follow guidance and make their place of work a safe place to work, because other businesses do not.



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