Christmas is prime time for retailers, but they’re having to adapt as the coronavirus pandemic that struck last winter prepares to roll into next year.
Typically, groups such as the Elmira BIA would be running activities to entice large groups of people downtown – events such as Moonlight Madness, for instance – but that’s not in the cards this year due to public health protocols. Still, the retailers are set up to safely welcome shoppers, says the chair of the Business Improvement Area.
“We’re trying to get the word out to the communities that they could still come downtown safely do their Christmas shopping, come into the stores [while] still feeling safe,” said Jonathon Clay, owner of SOS Physiotherapy.
While the BIA had hoped the pandemic situation would have improved enough by the end of the year to offer up Moonlight Madness, that wasn’t to be, especially with Waterloo Region in the red/control zone of the provincial system. That being the case, it wasn’t the time for the traditional tree-lighting, carol singing and visiting with Santa.
To make up for the event not taking place, the BIA came up with a contest to encourage residents to continue shopping in their favourite stores, inviting residents to visit and shop at their favourite BIA businesses and gave them two ways to enter for a chance to win one of five $100 gift cards. Those who visited the businesses could fill out a ballot for their chance to win, or they could take a selfie with their purchased items in front of the store and tag the BIA and store on Instagram or Facebook.
“We had to change on a dime like we literally made the decision that we were going to go ahead with different messages and just make sure that people knew that they were safe and still trying to do fire barrels and still try to have a selfie photoshoot outside the library. Then the next day we went to phase red, and we literally had to then shut it all down again,” said Clay of having to adapt to the situation.
“It’s just been really difficult with an ever-changing environment to make those decisions for this type of events.”
Clay said he wants residents to know that the shops in Elmira are not only still open, but they are doing everything safely to ensure they can continue to operate and serve customers in the community.
BIA member Krista McBay, owner of Elmira Home Hardware, says this event is especially important right now because they want to encourage residents to shop at their local stores while also being sensitive to the situation.
“With everything that was going on, we knew we wanted to do something to support the businesses downtown, but it was kind of tricky because you kind of walk a fine line between encouraging people to shop downtown and coming across as being insensitive to the situation we’re in. But we decided the best way to do it was to encourage people who were making the effort to come downtown and support the local merchants and businesses,” said McBay. “We want it to be more focused on the businesses and what they’re willing to offer and how they’re following safety protocols, and that kind of thing.
“[We also wanted] to show our appreciation for people coming downtown and supporting those businesses… and just encourage the businesses to do everything they needed to do to get the customers coming into their businesses, and to thank the consumers for actually shopping and supporting downtown.”