M&S refused to sell pants for boy as they were ‘non-essential’

A family claim they were not allowed to buy new underwear for their young son who needed them to be able to go to school.

Shaun Holland, 39, moved to Swansea in October with his partner and her three-year-old son Tyler. At Tyler’s new nursery school Mr Holland said children are told to come to school in underwear, rather than nappies, to help them with potty training.

But when the couple tried to buy some more underwear at Marks & Spencer in Swansea city centre on Thursday they were refused because it was classed as “non-essential” during the ongoing fire-break lockdown.

“His nursery have a policy that children his age have to come in wearing underwear rather than nappies to potty train them, to encourage them to use the toilet,” explained Mr Holland.

“We think it’s a brilliant idea and fully support it. We want him to be potty trained.

“We went to get him some more underwear for him from Marks & Spencer. The clothes were sectioned off so we explained to a staff member that he needs them to go to nursery but were told they are not essential.”

According to Welsh Government guidelines during the fire-break period shops are allowed to sell baby products such as clothes. However a particular age is not specified.

Mr Holland said he and his partner were taken aback since the shop was selling underwear for children under three years of age.

“We were devastated. We didn’t understand the difference between underwear for a nought to three-year-old and underwear for a child over three. They’re children until they’re about 16 and even though they’re staying home a lot their uniform can get damaged and dirty at school.

“We felt segregated because clothes for a three-year-old were classed as non-essential.

“We explained that it was effectively part of his uniform but they still refused to let us buy them – but it’s essential that he goes to nursery.

“They’ll happily sell a bottle of wine, a pack of beer, and a box of chocolates but underwear for a three-year-old is considered non-essential? It’s disgusting.”

Following the unsuccessful trip to Marks & Spencer Mr Holland said the couple went to Poundland and were able to purchase underwear there with no problems.

Underwear bought in Poundland
(Image: Shaun Holland)

When they arrived home Mr Holland phoned the Marks & Spencer head office and claimed he was told he could go in the next day to buy underwear.

He said: “I rang the Marks & Spencer head office at 3pm and at first was told that they were non-essential. However they rang me back at about 4pm and said I could go in store and buy him underwear but it was too late by then – I was already at home.”

He added: “I understand it’s a lockdown and that people need to buy only essential items and keep themselves to themselves but buying underwear for a child isn’t going to spread anything more than someone buying a bottle of wine.”

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A Marks & Spencer spokesman said: “We’re sorry that our customers were disappointed with their experience in store and for the inconvenience that this caused.

“We’re looking forward to being able to re-open all areas of our stores in Wales from Monday when customers will be able to shop from our full range of clothing and home products as well as in our foodhalls.”

WalesOnline – Swansea