Retailers feel the pinch as restrictions during the holidays eat at sales

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Retailers across the country are felling the pinch as restrictions meant slow the spread of COVID-19 have taken a bite out of their holiday sales.

As of Friday, retailers in Quebec will be forced to limit the number of customers inside a store to just one client per 20 square metres. Those who do not follow the rules could face a $6,000 fine or a complete shutdown.

For Kidlink Books and Toys in Montreal, this means limiting capacity by a third.

“We’re going to try to compensate for it by maybe opening earlier (and) closing later,” Ramzy Soueida, co-owner of Kidlink, told CTV News.


In Ontario, the Toronto and Peel regions have been in the province’s “grey” zone for more than a week, meaning all non-essential businesses have been limited to curbside pickup or delivery, while grocery stores have been allowed to continue operations.

This move has come with criticism from larger chain retailers and small businesses alike, both of whom argue that the restrictions are squeezing the same amount of people into fewer stores and the few stores in operation can still sell non-essential goods, such as books or appliances.

“We’re closing down the little flower shop, but well, you can buy your flowers at Costco,” Dan Kelly, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told CTV News Channel last week.

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“We’re closing down the small lighting store that I visited last night in north Toronto, but you can line up at Home Depot any time to get your lights. It is nuts.”

On Tuesday, a coalition of 50 retailers, including Indigo, Golf Town, Hudson’s Bay Co. and Ikea, urged the Ontario government to lift the restrictions on retail, arguing that they are ineffective and harmful to their industries. [double-checking: we sure this wasn’t today?]

“There is absolutely no data that suggests that retail environments is where spread is happening,” said Indigo CEO Heather Reisman.

Meanwhile in Manitoba, similar restrictions are in effect, though the province has tried to level the playing field by banning the in-store sale of non-essential items, though the list of essential items has changed since the regulation came into effect.

“When you create lists like that and you try to be specific there’s going to be things that are in and things that are out,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer.

Rather than deeming a certain business essential or non-essential, Alberta businesses have been classified under three broad categories: closed for in-person service, open with restrictions and open by appointment only.

Even without these additional restrictions, businesses across the country were already feeling stresses of the pandemic. According to a November survey from Statistics Canada, 5.2 per cent of Canadians businesses were already considering bankruptcy or closure in September and October, while 30 per cent did not know how long they could continue to operate before considering bankruptcy or closure.

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