Small retailers push back against lockdown policy that favours big-box stores
Small businesses in Toronto and Peel Region say it's not fair that they should be closed for in-person shopping while big-box stores can sell all manner of goods — from clothing to books to tech gadgets — if they happen to also sell essential products such as groceries.
Retailers considered non-essential in Ontario's COVID-19 hotspots were forced to shut their doors Monday to comply with public health directives, just as the already beleaguered sector enters the holiday season, its most critical period for sales.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says it's not right that these small shops should be limited to curbside pickup and online sales, while retail giants are free to soak up their lost revenue.
"Doug Ford has unfortunately signed the death warrant of thousands and thousands of businesses," said Dan Kelly, CFIB's president and CEO.
The organization is calling on the Ontario government to adjust the rules so that small businesses can serve up to three in-person customers at once and salvage some earnings at the tail end of a difficult year.
Kelly says his organization wants the government to adopt "a small-business-first retail strategy" that allows no more than six people in a business at any given time — three customers and three staff members.
Critical time of year
They're the sort of gifts people give for Christmas and Hanukkah and use to stay occupied while staying at home now that "we've all finished everything good on Netflix," he said.
"If back in March you told me, hey, pick one month you're allowed to be open this year and be closed the other 11, it would be from now until January 1. Typically we see two to three times our daily sales this time of year because people are shopping for their family, for their friends."
While customers can still buy online or arrange a curbside pickup, the store's strength lies with its in-store service, he said. "What really sets us apart from Amazon or even Toys 'R' Us is our ability to make a recommendation."