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Gardai want ban on discount 'specials' after supermarkets mobbed by shoppers

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Lidl cancelled special sales of its Crivit trampoline

Lidl cancelled special sales of its Crivit trampoline

Signs informing customers at Lidl

Signs informing customers at Lidl

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Lidl cancelled special sales of its Crivit trampoline

Senior gardai want the Government to pull the shutters down on supermarket chains staging 'specials' that result in large crowds congregating outside stores.

The issue came to the fore last Thursday when Lidl and Aldi held discount specials for garden furniture in a move that led to long queues at outlets across the country and caused a storm on social media.

The scenes prompted huge concern among health experts and gardai given the regulations around social distancing and travelling during the pandemic.

This led to senior gardai formally asking the Government to try to put an end to the specials.

Concerns

The Department of Business and Enterprise contacted the supermarkets at the weekend to outline the concerns.

On Monday, Lidl cancelled the nationwide sale of a number of 'special' items including garden slides, trampolines and swing sets because of social distancing concerns.

When contacted by the Herald, a Lidl spokesperson said in a statement: "At Lidl, the safety of our colleagues and customers is our number one priority.

"We have implemented numerous measures across all of our stores over the past two months in order to ensure appropriate social distancing can be achieved.

"Due to unprecedented and exceptional demand for certain items last week, we saw queues form outside our stores prior to opening. These queues made social distancing externally more challenging.

"For this reason we made the decision to cancel the following items which were due to be sold on May 4: Crivit outdoor trampoline, Smoby garden slide, Gemini swingset and wooden kitchen. We apologise to all customers who were left disappointed by this decision but we feel the safety of our team and customers must take priority at this challenging time.

"We will put these items on sale at a future date."

A spokesman for Aldi did not comment when contacted.

Senior sources said last night that gardai were "relieved" that Monday's 'special' sale did not go ahead at Lidl outlets.

"It was the right thing to do in these very difficult health circumstances - a lot of these items are very large and often would require more than one person to carry them," one source said last night.

"Last Thursday was very problematic at Lidl and Aldi outlets across the country - there were massive queues in which some people were not adhering to social distancing and a big increase in vehicular traffic was recorded.

"Gardai do not want to see a repeat of this situation."

On Thursday, barbecue equipment and summer garden furniture was being sold at Lidl, while Aldi was selling garden equipment like gazebos and bistro sets, attracting huge crowds to its stores.

"Trying to police what was happening would have been a huge drain on resources for gardai and it was quickly identified as an issue that needed to be addressed," the source added.

"So senior garda management notified the Department of Justice about their concerns and this was then passed on to the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Business and Enterprise."

Last Thursday, Lidl apologised to customers who could not get the equipment despite queuing for hours but added it could not have foreseen the demand when items were ordered.

"As with all our non-food promotions, these items were ordered and planned nearly a year in advance of sale," a spokesperson said at the time:

"Unfortunately due to the unforeseen circumstances we as a country are now experiencing, we have seen a rapid increase in the level of demand for our gardening promotion this week that we simply could not have anticipated at the time of ordering."

Meanwhile gardai say the public continues to display a high level of compliance with lockdown measures designed to prevent spread of the virus.

Spitting

A statement released yesterday said the 'turn back' rate at checkpoints was 0.16pc on May 1 and that the special regulations were invoked only 139 times "out of hundreds of thousands of interactions with the public".

Pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 1,172 incidents, while there were 52 incidents of people spitting or coughing at officers.

"In supporting the Covid-19 public health guidelines, An Garda Siochana has adopted a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent," a statement said. "This has seen garda members engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce."