Retail Excellence is to write to the Tánaiste to ask the Government to ensure Level 5 Covid-19 regulations for retail outlets are enforced and to prevent large retailers avoiding their responsibilities.

The organisation says the Government needs to ensure retailers who are permitted to remain open during the current lockdown restrict their sales activities to essential items only.

It follows claims over the past two days that certain retailers that are allowed to remain open in order to sell essential items are also selling non-essential goods and that others that predominantly sell non-essential items are selling some essential items in order to remain open.

"This rubs salt into the wounds of smaller retailers who are forced to close but who now see larger competitors take advantage of their closure," said CEO Duncan Graham.

"We need this lockdown to work so that we can all open for business in December but if large retailers spend the coming weeks seeking ways to work around the regulations, the lockdown won't work and they and all of us will suffer as a result."

Mr Graham said there appeared to be a significant difference between the way large retailers are responding to the current lockdown compared to their response to the original lockdown in March.

Mark Stafford, the CEO of Life Style Sports whose stores are closed due to the Level 5 restrictions, also expressed concern about the way other retailers were behaving.

"The health of our team and shoppers is our number one priority and at a time when the majority of Irish businesses are standing together to show solidarity to keep the population safe, some are not taking the situation as seriously as they should," he said.

"This is the biggest health and social challenge the country has faced in living memory, and to see certain retailers look to find illegitimate loopholes in the regulations is a kick in the teeth for all other Irish businesses, who are struggling through these times."

"We will continue to put the safety of our team and customers first in order to assist with the government's mission to get the country to a safe place once more. We hope that others will move forward and adhere to the regulations so that jobs and lives are not risked."

Yesterday, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, stressed the importance of businesses working not only to the guidelines and regulations but to the spirit of those guidelines and regulations.

Government sources today indicated that engagement with the sector is continuing and if retailers don't comply with rules, then other measures would have to be looked at.

Under the Level 5 restrictions, retailers with a mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail, should make arrangements for the separation and closure of non-essential retail areas. 

RTÉ News asked a number of large mixed-goods retailers how they are managing those requirements.

Lidl said it offers a mixture of hardware, gardening, textiles and furniture, many of which are still permitted under level 5 guidelines.

"If Lidl were forced to remove these items from sale it would cause massive logistical issues and would result in our warehouses being overstocked, which would seriously compromise our ability to get essential food supplies in," it said.

"We can appreciate that this may seem unfair, however we have made every effort to cancel promotion of these items in media and online."

Aldi said the vast majority of its range is made up of groceries and other essential household items that Irish families rely on.

Woodies said that following updated guidance from the Government it has taken a decision to close the garden centres associated with their outlets with immediate effect, other than on a click and collect basis.   

"This is facilitated by the standalone nature of the garden centre areas that are typically outdoor and can be easily segregated," it said.

Tesco said it is adhering to Government guidelines by closing its F&F clothing units across the country.

"We will continue to offer a very limited range of essential items only for customers for example, school wear and some baby clothing," it said.

"The safety of our customers and colleagues remains our number one priority and we continue to adhere to public health guidelines."