TORONTO - The holiday rush is in full swing. Only this season will be different from any other before.
Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year which normally sees hordes of customers packed in shopping centres all over town. Not this year.
The usual chaotic scene of holiday shoppers trying to snatch up the best deals on electronics, clothes, toys, or anything that is marketable, will likely not happen, at least in some areas. To mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and the rise in cases, Toronto and the Region of Peel were moved into lockdown, effectively closing doors to in-person shopping.
Unless, of course, the establishment is deemed essential. This is a blessing for big box and department stores, which sell more than just the bare necessities and are permitted to stay open. Which location is more likely to be cause for concern in community transmission of Covid-19, a crowded department store limited to fifty percent capacity or a smaller business with a handful of customers?
Advocates for small business like, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) call on the Ontario government to implement a “Small Business First” Covid-19 retail policy. In addition to following the current rules which permit critical goods retailers to remain open, CFIB recommends that all non-essential small retailers also be permitted to conduct in-store sales with limited capacity for customers and staff.
Along with the proposed policy, the CFIB recommends other measures like pre-booking appointments for in-store shopping to avoid long lines outside stores.
Adapting to a world in which Covid-19 exists means changes and sacrifices. Some feel that small businesses are being unfairly targeted. “The lockdown restrictions have created a massive unfair advantage for many big multi-national corporations”, said CFIB president Dan Kelly.
It is this unfair advantage that has many small business owners frustrated with the government, some going so far as to defy lockdown measures and open their doors to the public. Anyone who chooses to violate Ontario’s Covid-19 emergency orders could face fines of $750 to $100,000.
Whether it’s foolishness, frustration or desperation, it appears that patience is wearing thin on some small business owners and members of the public showing their support.
Despite the additional $300 million in government supports available for small businesses impacted by the restrictions, along with the extension of the wage subsidy and the Canada Emergency Rent subsidy programs, to name a few, the entrepreneurs of these affected establishments want the opportunity of an even playing field for all, big and small.
Even after making all the necessary investments in safety protocols to keep customers and workers safe while in their establishments, shop owners are frustrated they cannot open their doors to their clientele.
A situation made worse knowing that big box retailers are able to sell similar products to shoppers in their stores.
The unofficial “kickoff” to the holiday shopping season with Black Friday deals may prove lucrative for industry giants permitted in-store sales. However, for small independent retailers not permitted the same rules will have to make due with online sales, curbside pickup and delivery options only.
Until a better set of standardized measures are implemented which help all business weather the economic impacts of Covid-19, many simply hope to make it through without closing their doors for good.