Here's how stores in Ontario like Dollarama and Costco are blocking off non-essential items
Every public health region in Ontario is now officially under a stay-at-home order following Premier Doug Ford's latest state of emergency declaration (the province's third) on Wednesday, and as usual, we've all got yet another new set of rules to learn.
Not too much changing, restriction wise, this time around — at least not in comparison to the four-week-long "emergency brake" shutdown mode the entire province was just plunged into on Saturday, April 3.
Workplace inspections are ramping up, more people are now eligible for vaccines, and non-essential retail stores – which had only been permitted to reopen at limited capacities in grey-zone regions one month ago – are closed again for everything but curbside pickup and delivery.
There's one key change that eclipses all others, however, in terms of buzz and confusion: As of Thursday, April 8, at 12:01 a.m., big box and discount stores in Ontario are required to block off "non-essential" goods to customers.
While this move should theoretically help even the playing field for smaller retailers forced to shutter amid the pandemic, it's a bit of a logistical nightmare (or so said Ford when explaining why he wouldn't consider this measure in the past.)
The government's list of items that businesses such as Walmart, Costco and Dollarama can still sell is a bit vague, but a release issued by the province on Wednesday states that big box and discount stores are restricted to selling "grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items and personal care items only."
How each store prevents customers from accessing all of their other, non-essential goods seems to be up to whoever is running that store. The government has provided no guidance in that regard and the tactics we've seen so far are quite varied.
Here's what a few of the majors were doing in Toronto (at least temporarily) to block off products such as electronics, clothing, decor, craft supplies, toys and more on the first day of Ontario's latest version of lockdown.
Costco Canada VP Martin Groleau told blogTO on Thursday that "access to the non-essential items has been blocked or covered with a plastic wrap" in Ontario stores.
He didn't have a list of specific brands or products on the blocked list, but said that "the government has defined the essential categories as grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items and personal care items only."
A provided picture shows that huge things of Kirkland Signature Bacon Crumble and Kraft parmesan cheese are considered essential right now at Costco, like all groceries, but that QLED televisions are off-limits.
A "Costco Superfan" Instagram account shared a more comprehensive, yet unverified list of rules for the OG big box bulk retailer on Thursday.
Not available, according to Costco fans, are things like clothes (including socks and undergarments) all home goods (including electronic toothbrushes, blowdryers and and electronic shavers), skincare products (such as wrinkle cream and serums from Aveno or Olay) and electronics.
What you can buy are food products, sunscreen, cleaning supplies, pharmacy products and personal care items such as deodorant, hand soaps, shampoo, toothpaste and moisturizer (that isn't a wrinkle cream, I guess?)
Walmart did not return blogTO's request for comment regarding their non-essential items, but photos shared online by people in Ontario today suggest that caution tape is a huge part of the company's strategy.
did you know that masks are non essential? this is my local stratford walmart 🙃 pic.twitter.com/DBdDuijaKz— tash🌿 (@holdingharmans) April 9, 2021
Saran wrap, too.
Thanks Ontario for deciding I can't buy anything. Here's Walmart fully Saran wrapped. Now you can buy haircut but not outdoor equipment. You can't buy a microwave oven when yours blows up. You can buy baby outfits for your niece. You can't even buy a magazine to sit at home with. pic.twitter.com/KLxhLcpFS4— j Can 🍁🇨🇦 (@JcandaceJ) April 8, 2021
Some people are mad to see that school supplies are blocked off, but many people are also just mad at pretty much everything ever these days.
Like Walmart, Dollarama left your girl hanging. Emails and calls to the company were not responded to. Fortunately, there are many Dollaramas in downtown Toronto to observe first-hand.
Party supplies have quite obviously been deemed non-essential (gatherings are prohibited with limited exceptions.)
Some aisles are closed off completely with string and yellow paper signs that read "AISLE CLOSED: Ontario provincial regulations dictate that this aisle does not contain essential items therefore these items cannot be sold at this time."
In other parts of the store, "sections" of products are closed off instead.
"SECTION CLOSED," read these Dollarama signs. "Ontario provincial regulations dictate that this 4 foot section does not contain essential items, therefore these items cannot be sold at this time."
The section tagging is a bit imprecise, potentially causing some confusion among shoppers.
Novelty Canada-themed rubber ducks are not considered essential by the provincial government at this time.
But food is!
Bicycle bells, lights and repair kits? Not so much (though that could be in error — it's literally illegal to ride a bike without a bell on it in Ontario.)
Also blocked off today were: picture frames, television remote control caddies, the entire crafting aisle, John Cena Funko POPs, glasswear, salt & pepper shakers, tablecloths, oven mitts, shoe racks and those sticky hooks you can put on a wall to hang stuff from.
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