Sainsbury’s has been accused of exploiting a loophole to keep Argos outlets open during the UK blockade.
Under government restrictions, all non-essential stores were closed last week. Since supermarkets are an exception, Argos’ concessions in Sainsbury’s stores remain open.
But workers fear health risks and customers said they had to shut down.
Sainsbury’s said that people can only buy items in Argos outlets if they have already paid for them online.
“Like many other online retailers, we are selling essential products to millions of people who live and work entirely from home,” a Sainsbury spokesman told the BBC.
“This includes products for the home office, to educate and entertain children and for adults to keep fit and have fun at home.
“So we strongly advise customers to deliver them to their home. We also have the option to pick them up from Sainsbury’s supermarkets while they shop for essential groceries.”
An unnamed worker, cited in tests published Monday by the House of Commons corporate selection committee, said: “Argos is currently using the loophole of having stores in a supermarket. [Sainsbury’s] continue to trade normally, although practically everything that is sold is not essential in the current crisis.
“Children’s pool, sand play, wardrobes, TV, video games and consoles, all not essential. As independent stores are closed, this is prompting large numbers of people to gather in their stores, to the point where people do row through entire Sainsbury’s.
“They are actively encouraging people on their website to buy these non-essential items in these stores.
“They are also forcing all Argos workers from their closed standalone stores to go to work in the stores they are still trading, or to a Sainsbury club, rather than allowing them to stay home (where the government says they should be).
“If they refuse, they are sent home without pay and refused to do so. These actions will certainly undermine the government’s plans to contain this pandemic, leading to the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of vulnerable people.”
Another Argos employee tweeted: “Argos is making us make the self-employed shop attendants go to Argos in the Sainsbury stores that are still open or operating in the delivery center or WE DO NOT WIN.
“For me this means public transportation, further increasing my risk.”
Another employee, Beau Wood, tweeted: “People travel everywhere to pick up Nintendo Switch consoles and trampolines, most are not picking up ESSENTIALS even in Sainsbury, using only Argos, attracting people when they should be at home.”
It is not just employees who are frustrated. Accountant, Sarah Robinson tweeted that she was “disgusted” by the fact that Argos had kept some of its stores open.
How many Argos stores are open?
There are now 300 Argos concessions within Sainsbury’s stores and these remain open based on click and collection.
“While our Argos stores in Sainsbury supermarkets are still open, we have temporarily closed our in-store payment points,” said a note on the Argos website.
“You can still arrange for your order to be picked up in person, but you must have already paid for it online.”
Argos added, “We strongly recommend that you order items for home delivery and only pick them up while shopping for essential foods at Sainsbury’s.”