The Government has been warned that smaller shops forced to close due to Level 5 restrictions may reopen in a “campaign of civil disobedience” as large companies continue to sell non-essential items.
Isme, which represents thousands of small businesses, said scenes of large queues of shoppers looking to by toys at multinationals was like a "red rag to a bull".
Niall McDonnell, Isme chief executive, claimed the Government had facilitated a "massive transfer of wealth" from struggling small businesses to already profitable companies still trading in toys, clothes and homeware.
"This is what has happened," he told The Irish Times.
“The small guys are getting shut down by Government and at the same time Government is allowing really large billion-euro businesses to continue trading.
“I really don’t understand what the long-term objective here is, unless they want main street Ireland to have tumble weed blowing through it in the new year.”
I could see store owners saying I am going to trade until the gardaí close down someone who is competing with me down the street.
Pictures of massive queues for a toy sale at Aldi on Thursday were widely shared on social media.
There were also complaints about large grocery chains launching sales for non-essential items and placing essential items, such as food and face masks, in the same sections.
“I mean, the absurdity of allowing big stores to sell everything while shuttering small stores,” Mr McDonnell added.
“But I could see civil disobedience,” he said. “I could see some stores deciding they are going to open. I could see store owners saying I am going to trade until the gardaí close down someone who is competing with me down the street."
Retail Excellence has echoed these statements.
Duncan Graham, chief executive of the retail body, said: “Our concern is that large retailers are abusing the fact that they are allowed remain open by selling non-essential as well as essential items. This rubs salt into the wounds of smaller retailers who are forced to close but who see larger competitors take advantage of their closure.”
Mr Graham said the organisation will be writing to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar to ask the Government to ensure that the regulations for retail outlets are enforced and to prevent large retailers avoid their responsibilities.
Similar concerns have been raised in other countries under Covid-19 restrictions.
In Wales, supermarkets will not be allowed to sell items such as clothing and hardware during the country's 'firebreak' lockdown.
Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford said he wants a "level playing field" as many small businesses will be forced to close as the 17-day lockdown begins on Friday.