Some retail businesses with a street entrance were able to reopen last week, subject to guidelines to ensure the continued safety of customers. As of Tuesday, more businesses were able to start welcoming in customers for a normal shopping experience as restrictions began to relax.
In order to comply with new provincial rules, stores also needed to change their work processes, ensuring a safe social distance between employees and an upgrade of sanitation practices to include a rigorous emphasis on cleanliness.
Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for Ontario with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says the group appreciates that the government is taking the time to do things right so businesses can move forward without having a backslide in the number of COVID-19 cases.
However, Kwiecinski says Ontario is behind other provinces as they did not allow most businesses to offer curbside pickup until recently, putting some at a disadvantage.
The CFIB has been working to see restrictions eased. As a national organization, it sees what other provinces are doing, with places like British Columbia allowing curbside from the beginning without experiencing higher instances of infection, said Kwiecinski.
Every province is different, and down the road we can look back and say we may or may not have done things wrong, but only time will tell if this will help businesses continue to operate into the future, she added.
“I’m confident that the curbside will be a move that allows our members to generate some revenue which would be better than them not having some revenue at all,” said Kwiecinski. “We’re going to monitor the situation closely and see where things should go next.”
While this is good news for the stores that had to close in mid-March when the Ontario government mandated all non-essential businesses shutdown for safety, there are some problems that may arise, especially for the smaller stores that may not be as up to date on their sales processes as the bigger retailers.
Some small businesses rely on their established community support and word of mouth to keep themselves thriving, choosing to treat online aspects as an afterthought, or forego them all together.
This can cause a problem for some small retailers as COVID-19 continues to change the way we shop. This is especially true for those that sell clothing or similar products where people may need to have the chance to see items before buying.
Kwiecinski says for now shoppers may need to support their local businesses by using a telephone to shop for items until they’re able to get back inside.
“We would actually encourage that consumers call their favourite retailer.… It depends on what you’re buying, it may be very, very hard to identify it (the item) and it depends on the situation. But that is an option you could pick up the phone and call them,” said Kwiecinski. “If you shop local and you recognize that people know each other, (it) may be less difficult than you think.”
Businesses that require additional information on reopening, and best practices to follow can visit the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development website for more information. They can also call the CFIB for information at 1-888-234-2232 or visit their website to gain access to free information.
The CFIB is also administering a Facebook group called ‘PPEs for SMEs’ where businesses that need personal protective equipment can connect with those who are selling it.