small business ontario

Retailers in Ontario are begging the government to let them open up

It's the busiest shopping season of the year for businesses both large and small in Toronto and Peel Region — or at least, it would be if pandemic restrictions weren't limiting their operations and thus killing any chance at a profit.

This is what retailers in Ontario are advocating to the provincial government in a new open letter that presents their plight and implores that lockdown closures be eased as we approach the holiday season — and as they face the prospect of having to hold off on in-store shopping for another two and a half weeks, or likely even more.

"We respect the extraordinary efforts you and your administration are making to safeguard the public interest during this extremely challenging time," a group of 47 stores wrote to Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott on Tuesday.

"The problem is that Ontario's policy of segregating 'non-essential' retailers from those deemed essential might actually be making things worse."

The letter goes on to state how relegating retailers to providing curbside pickup and delivery only is not actually cutting down on in-person purchases, but is simply limiting customers' options and forcing them to turn to big box stores within Toronto and Peel that are "increasingly crowded."

It is also encouraging region-hopping to nearby jurisdictions like York Region, where things are less shuttered and malls such as Vaughan Mills and Markville are still open, and certainly extremely busy.

"This potentially creates greater health risk... [while] independent and local stores sit shuttered, with their hands tied, even though many sell the very same goods," they continue. "And in the process, Canadian retail businesses are being destroyed and tens of thousands of jobs are being lost."

The collective also shares some sobering stats, such as the fact that only 0.2% to 0.9% of recent weekly cases related to outbreaks have been tied to retail spaces in Ontario — seemingly not enough justification to close their doors altogether.

The numbers are reminiscent of those that salons and other personal care service providers in Toronto are sharing in their petition to likewise remain open, the vast majority of them having seen zero infections since they were permitted to resume operations earlier this year.

Instead of full lockdown, the companies named — which range from Canadian Tire to Indigo to Long & McQuade Musical Instruments — instead suggest stringent capacity limits of 25 per cent, while still being permitted to remain open for business. Coupled with mandatory masking and other strict measures, they believe that the health of both the public and businesses can be maintained.

Small stores are likewise beseeching officials to give them more leeway this holiday season, with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses asking that small businesses be not just considered, but prioritized in new policies.

The federation last month launched a petition for the cause called Save Our Small Businesses, aptly stating that "closing our local shops during the holiday season means thousands will not survive. Business owners and their families will lose their futures and many will lose their homes. Employees will lose their livelihoods. Our communities will lose their rich diversity. "

Lead photo by

Randy McDonald

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