Published: 14:30, 20 November 2020
| Updated: 14:31, 20 November 2020
The definition of "essential" could probably be considered up for debate, especially when it comes to which of our shops are forced to shut their doors during lockdown.
One shopkeeper in Maidstone has defended his business' right to keep trading while other neighbouring stores remain closed - despite the fact that from the outside his operation may look slightly less than essential.
From the outside it would be easy to mistake The Value Store in Week Street as a purely Christmas-focused venture, such is the plentiful selection of festive products arrayed at the front of the store.
But when we paid a visit to the tinsel-laden treasure trove, owner Ash Kumar was eager to lead us deeper into the shop and show off his eclectic and keenly-priced stock of household items.
"It's the same as all the pound shops," he said, as he walked us through his discount emporium.
"We do hardware, all the wipes and cleaning stuff, everything."
Asked whether his business should be labelled as essential retail during the lockdown, he responded emphatically in the affirmative.
"The council did come in and they looked at it, and that's it," he said. "Exactly the same as the pound stores."
As for the impression given by the vast selection of yuletide merchandise sitting in the front of the shop?
"That's the seasonal stuff," he replied. "But if you see our sign it says household goods, tools, that sort of thing."
We asked Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) for its take on the situation with businesses trading during lockdown, and although responsibility for enforcement falls with Kent County Council (KCC) Trading Standards, MBC is still keeping a watchful eye over town centre businesses.
"Council officers have been patrolling and visiting premises in and around the town centre and have been reviewing potential breaches of lockdown rules," a spokesman told us.
"If anyone has concerns regarding retail premises that are in breach of rules, they should contact KCC Trading Standards."
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