Residents’ fury as Stevenage and St Albans chain stays open amid coronavirus lockdown

The Range have so far remained open for business during lockdown. Picture: Google Maps

The Range have so far remained open for business during lockdown. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

A number of residents have condemed the decision by a national chain to remain open for business as usual in Stevenage and St Albans, despite concerns the store does not fall into the government’s “essential” shops category.

Home, garden and leisure retailer The Range, which has stores in Stevenage and St Albans, has kept its doors open in spite of government’s lockdown measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has specified that only “essential” stores will remain open – citing examples such as supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, laundrettes, post offices and banks as exempt from lockdown.

However, both residents and members of staff were dismayed to discover The Range will continue to keep its doors open during the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting online, one person said: “I’m going to make sure I tell everyone I know to boycott your stores for how you’re treating staff and the general public. Close your stores!”

Another added: “Stay home, stay safe! Pity your staff aren’t allowed to! How many will be infected selling one of these for you? Is it worth it? Close stores now. Boycott this store!”

One employee working at the Roaring Meg store, who does not want to be named, described the worry among staff as people continue to shop in store without adhering to social distancing measures.

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They said: “We sell a scant amount of essentials: Food stuffs like Pot Noodles, Twinkies and biscuits. Yes, we sell pet food when it’s in stock, and very small amounts of paracetamol but lately they have been out of stock.

“The hand sanitiser doubled in price, as did most liquid soaps and we have to buy our own to use at work.

“A freezer arrived on Sunday, but as of yesterday there was still no food in the freezer for customers to buy.

“We want to help our customers but we have been told we are not to stop them if they are buying lamps and teapots etc. We need to cordon off our store in favour of just the essential items.

“The police have already been called as customers were not adhering to government guidance to not gather together and my colleagues have been abused when asked to social distance themselves.”

When the Comet contacted The Range’s head office, we were told that the marketing team wouldn’t be able to directly answer our calls as they are working from home.

The company did not respond to our requests for comment.

A national petition which aims to force The Range to close its stores during the pandemic has also been set up. It currently has more than 12,000 signatures.