Essential and non-essential shops

What are non-essential shops?

Countries and governments all over the world are categorizing shops into two distinct groups: essential and non essential shops. This, obviously, is due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, but what exactly does it mean and what are essential and non essential shops?

We’re going to have a look at a few countries to see what they mean by essential and which types of shops and stores are currently open and closed. This will include the restrictions based upon non-essential retail shops and some services.

Essential and non-essential shops.

Generally speaking, essential shops are stores that we, whilst in lockdown, all need in order to survive so, food shops, shops that provide essential servces such as fuel for heating, and chemists that stock medicines and can hand out prescriptions are amongst the most common essential shops.

Non essential shops tend to be shops that sell luxury rather than neccessary items. So, things like gift shops, clothes shops and electronic shops are generally considered non-essential.

The definitions may change as the lockdown progresses or as weather and seasons change. For instance, we can do without buying clothes and some electrical items for a short while, but it might be that people entering Winter will need to buy heaters or warmer clothes. So shops that sell these products might be designated essential at some point.

Here is quick look at some different countries. This list of not completely exhaustive, we have only considered shops and retail services, many commercial services are still open.


On Sunday 29th March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced shopping restrictions and lockdown conditions.

Essential shops Australia

  • Shopping centres
  • Bottle shops
  • Pharmacies

Non essential shops Australia

  • Clubs
  • Personal services, including spas and massages.
  • Amusement arcades
  • Galleries, museums and libraries

Restricted shops

Restricted shops are allowed to operate but must enforce social distancing rules.

  • Hairdressers and barbers
  • Restaurants, must only offer delivery
  • Weddings, restricted to 5 people
  • Funerals


In the USA states have the right to designate what is considered essential or not.

USA Essential shops

  • Supermarkets and grocery stores
  • Pharmacies and health stores
  • Gun shops
  • Pet stores

USA Non essential shops

  • Clothing stores
  • Department stores
  • Hardware stores

In the USA official guidance has been quite vague and retailers are being asked to classify themselves as essential or not. This means that some stores are continuing to open, or are reopening. There are stories that hobby shops such as Hobby Lobby is wanting to reopen.

President Trump has made it clear that he believes gun stores are essential, despite not fiting into the essential category.

The UK

Official guidance in the UK, states that that these shops can remain open or closed.

UK Essential shops

  • Food shops including supermarkets and corner shops
  • Pharmacies
  • Bicycle shops
  • Post Offices
  • Hardware shops

Non essential shops UK

  • Clothing shops
  • Electronics stores;
  • Hair, beauty and nail salons
  • Outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets


Prime Minister Modi, called for a 21 day lockdown on 25th March 2020.

Indian essential shops

  • Food shops inclding supermarkets, ration shops and kiranas
  • Delivery of medicine throughecommerce

Non-essential shops India

  • All other shops
  • Liquor shops


Most countries are allowing the same or similar types of shops to be considered essential, that is shops that supply food and medicines, all other retail shops are being considered non-essential. There are some exceptions in each country for instance gun stores are allowed in the USA and bicycle shops are allowed to remain unrestricted in the UK.

India has closed liquor shops which are still open in Australia and the UK, where they are known as bottle shops and off-licences respectively.

Things will probably change as the coronavirus situation changes, so the information listed here is only correct at the time of publication.


The UK closures

India guidelines

Australia guidelines





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