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Big box stores in Ontario will now have to block off aisles with non-essential goods

A number of new restrictions have been added onto the emergency shutdown that just went into effect in Ontario, most of them pertaining to retail stores.

After just one month of being permitted to accept customers in-person again, malls and stores that sell primarily "non-essential" goods — those which aren't groceries, medication, prescription eyewear, safey supplies, vehicles and certain equipment — must close their doors as of 12:01 a.m. on April 8, and pivot to curbside pickup and delivery only.

And, in a departure from the last provincewide shutdown, there are stern new measures being brought into big box stores for the first time during this health crisis.

Costco, Walmart, and superstores like them will have to, as of Thursday, close or cordon off aisles that carry "non-essential" goods that fall outside of the above categories.

Clothing, toys, books and the like will not be available for purchase in-store in an attempt to keep shoppers at home and prevent retail giants from earning money that could go to smaller businesses through online or phone purchases — a move Manitoba controversially made last year, and that Peel officials at one point called for even for online sales.

Big Box stores will also have to maintain strict 25 per cent capacity limits for the next 28 days at least.

These new regulations are interesting given how Doug Ford defended his earlier decision to keep such shops fully open, selling non-essential goods at the expense of other businesses.

"What the health table's trying to do is limit the amount of visits that you're making out there. If you're going to one of the big box retailers, it's kind of a one-stop shop — I know it's not fair, believe me, I know it's not fair — but it really limits people from going out and making four, five, six stops to pick stuff up," he said in November.

Lead photo by

Virginia Retail

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