Baby clothes, blankets, and even toys are starting to show up on South African shelves again after an absence of two weeks.
Clothing-only stores remain closed, and specialised baby and toddler outlets could not be reached this weekend to confirm their plans after Easter. But various retailers that are open to sell food said they had started to open up shelves that contain a wider variety of baby items after two weeks of selling only nappies, formula, bottles, and baby medicines and ointments.
Woolworths, which operates many food markets inside clothing stores that sell a variety of baby items, said it was working on plans to open up the baby sections of those clothing stores, or to move baby items into its food markets.
The Baby City chain on the weekend confirmed it will reopen on 14 April.
Online retailers too now selling baby car seats, teething toys, and other accessories again.
The first set of South Africa’s lockdown rules, which set out what may be sold, made no mention of babies and toddlers in its list of essentials. Baby food was covered by a broad exemption for food, and items such as nappies and wipes could be sold under a broad category of hygiene products – but no safety or comfort equipment, or clothes, could be sold under those regulations.
Those rules were updated the next day, on 26 March, to specifically include “products for the care of babies and toddlers”. But with the possibility of six months in jail if they misinterpreted what that covered, retailers were extremely loathe to take chances.
On Thursday – after two weeks during which South Africa’s weather generally took a turn for the chilly – the department of trade and industry finally published some guidance on what may be sold.
“Following requests for clarification, we confirm that this provision includes baby clothes, blankets, towels and other essential accessories for new-borns, infants and toddlers up to 36 months old,” it said.
It made no mention of specialist stores for babies and toddlers, but said “all stores that are currently permitted to remain open for the sale of other essential goods, including supermarkets, may therefore sell these products.”