Christmas is fast approaching and nothing reflects the holiday season better than this last minute rush through the stores.
It’s not uncommon this time of year to see carts full of emergency wrapping paper or street shoppers frantically searching for Secret Santa stocking fillers and gifts.
Last year, however, was a very different story as retailers shut down on December 20 while supermarkets buckled non-essentials.
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It’s hard to imagine Main Street without its Boxing Day sales and things like Christmas toys and decorations stuck at big chains like Asda and Tesco, but in 2020 it was reality.
Just days before Christmas last year, the Welsh government announced it was tightening restrictions in the fight against Covid-19. All non-essential retail businesses have been forced to close as Wales has been subject to alert level four lockdown rules.
Here we reflect on what the high streets and supermarkets of Wales looked like last Christmas.
Supermarkets have blocked non-essential items
The non-essential retail business closed on December 20 of last year.
When this happened, supermarkets also cordoned off sections of stores that were “clearly segregated” from other essentials.
And while businesses could offer click and collect services for non-essential items, like toys, Christmas decorations, gifts and candles, some supermarkets were blocked.
A Welsh government spokesperson said at the time: ‘In large supermarkets in most cases it will be clear that certain sections of the store need to be cordoned off or emptied and closed to the public.
“Where there are separate parts of a store selling (for example) electrical products, clothing, toys, games or garden products, these must be closed to the public – and such products should not be must not be sold. “
Searching for wrapping paper and cards
Following the closure of department stores, many were on the lookout for gift wrapping to complete their Christmas wrapping.
There was also some confusion as to whether it could be sold in supermarkets with a Welsh government spokesperson clarifying at the time that although toys could not be sold in supermarkets, things like cards, wrapping paper and other stationery were allowed.
Variety stores such as B&M and Wilko have also confirmed that their stores will sell wrapping paper in December 2020, following advice from the Welsh government.
We also wrote stories about where you could find it, as many struggled to get their hands on it.
Boxing Day sales canceled
With the closure of all non-essential retail businesses, Boxing Day sales have been canceled.
This meant that huge retailers like Next, which are famous for their seasonal sales, were forced to shut down and offer their usual discounts online instead.
However, some stores, such as Marks & Spencer, had previously announced that they were reversing their decision to stay open on Boxing Day to give staff a much-needed break during the pandemic.
Christmas markets closed earlier
Cardiff’s Christmas Market closed four days earlier last year when home stay restrictions took effect.
They told social media followers at the time: ‘Due to the announcement made by the Welsh government tonight we will unfortunately not be reopening.
âThank you to everyone who has supported our exhibitors this year and followed the rules of social distancing and masks. Hopefully next year will bring better news.â
Shortly after, workers were seen dismantling Cardiff’s Christmas market, which was said to have been open during Christmas time.
Earlier in December, Christmas markets were allowed to remain open while all other outdoor attractions held for entertainment purposes and “winter wonderland-type events” were closed.
What is shopping like this Christmas
Since December 2020 we have seen the roll-out of vaccines and, although face masks are still mandatory in shops in Wales, the restrictions are relaxed much more.
Much like last year, however, things are still a little different and the spread of the new Omicron variant means the Welsh government is revising the restrictions every week.
In November, independent businesses told Wales Online about their nervousness and apprehension as they prepare for Christmas with so much uncertainty. You can read more about it here.
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