The government is able to effectively determine what might be considered 'essential goods' about as effective as they are at balancing a budget; they perform miserably.
They are not able to say or determine what is an essential item for one individual from the next. Our needs differ from person to person but still the government this year has criminalized the sale of services and goods that are non-essential. Now, they are back at it again as they bring forth their second lockdown plans all around the world.
While they made many mistakes along the way, at first declaring that sales of cannabis for example were not an essential item, even though millions of people use cannabis for medicinal purposes to help offer remedy for a long list of ailments and illnesses. They later reversed that decision and declared cannabis services to be an essential service after protest from the public.
More than 20 states have declared cannabis to be an essential service.
This is directly contributing to the death of thousands of small businesses and destroying the livelihood for many, along with the standard of living for millions.
Essential items for retail have been considered to be things like food and beverages, personal care products, health-related products, mobility and assistive devices, diapers, cleaning products, batteries, some clothing, postage stamps, pet food, and more. In some regions, government agents have left off things like gift cards being considered essential, but later made changes to include those for people wanting to buy them over the holiday season. Oddly enough they've deemed alcohol to be an essential item as well, meanwhile left off a variety of others for approval, though people still have the option to go and buy them online.
Overall they've made a mess of the market with their restrictions and infringements and they've made it all the more difficult for many businesses to try and make it through until next year.