The boss of JoJo Maman Bébé has hit out at ministers for forcing the babywear retailer to shut during lockdown, saying it provides vital support for young families and should be allowed to stay open.
Laura Tenison, who founded the chain in 1993, said it is "extraordinary" that pregnancy, new baby and toddler clothes and equipment are not included on a Government list of essentials.
It came as a host of retailers which voluntarily shut last time vowed to stay open through the second lockdown, amid signs that high street footfall is dropping far less steeply than it did when coronavirus first hit in March.
Ms Tenison warned that women will be unable to access vital advice from JoJo on everything from breastfeeding to potty training essentials as a result of its enforced closure, and added she does not want to rely on the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme.
She said: "I do not wish to burden the fiscal purse with more expense if it is not absolutely necessary. We wish to stay open. We wish to offer our service. We wish to be useful to society and pay our taxes – not take handouts."
The ban on maternity product sales follows a growing backlash over rules forcing women to give birth alone, without the support of their partners or family.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that pregnant women will be prioritised in a rollout of 15-minute Covid tests to make sure they can be supported during labour.
Meanwhile, data firm Springboard said that footfall until 10am Thursday was down 55pc on a year earlier after the new rules came in. However, this was a far smaller drop than the 75pc fall in the week starting March 22 when stores were shut first time around.
a host of retailers and takeaway chains which closed during the first lockdown have this time decided not to shut their doors.
Hotel Chocolat, which closed during the first wave of the virus despite being allowed under the rules to stay open, will keep about a third of its stores open this time round.
Chief executive Angus Thirwell tweeted: "We have spent the past eight months meticulously honing the measures we have in place to enable us to make this move with confidence."
Sausage roll chain Greggs will also keep its shops open for takeaways and deliveries.
Other stores ordered to shut down have joined JoJo in criticising the Government, in sharp contrast to the widespread support during March.
Cosmetics retailer Lush, which is being forced to close, said: "It is ironic that a soap shop should shut at the very time when our product is not just wonderful to use, but lifesaving".
House and home specialist Dunelm on Thursday called the new restrictions "unexpected and inconsistent".