Retail businesses in Greater Sudbury have performed better this holiday season compared to 2020, but experts say there’s still a long way to go to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said there’s “no question that most, but not all,” retailers in the Sudbury region have seen increased sales but she’s particularly concerned about the ones struggling to hit pre-pandemic targets.
President and CEO of the RCC, Diane J. Brisebois, said many independent and midsize retailers were “heartbroken” after the Ontario government reintroduced 50 per cent capacity limits in stores because of the difficult situation it puts them in.
New restrictions mean that retailers have to “quickly pivot,” she said, and that means potentially laying off employees during the holiday season, something that is “extremely emotional” for many small businesses.
“It’s been a struggle for most retailers right across the country, but in Ontario specifically, there have been numerous lockdowns and some pretty tight restrictions over a two-year period,” said Brisebois.
“It has been extremely challenging for retailers, especially independent and midsize retailers, in different regions of the province.”
The RCC, an association that represents more than 45,000 independent, regional, national mass and specialty retail businesses and online merchants in Canada, was hopeful that business would improve as COVID-19 case counts decreased, but Brisebois said that other factors are also at play.
“Retailers have also been affected by lifestyle changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, fashion and apparel retailers have been hit hard even when restrictions have been lifted,” she said.
“That’s simply because there are so many people who were working from home and continue to work from home, so their buying habits have changed.”
Brisebois added that retail is very seasonal and regions that rely heavily on tourism or special events have been impacted as a result.
“Imagine all of those retailers who sell wedding dresses or party supplies – all of the things you would purchase for a big social gathering – or the gift shops in towns that rely heavily on tourism,” she said.
Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brisebois said retailers have been on the frontlines since the beginning and have worked hard to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.
“Before the restrictions were even introduced, retailers across Ontario were already putting in place best practices in their stores. They take health and safety very seriously,” she said.
“That obviously comes at a cost. It’s not just the additional signage and reconfiguring the store so that customers can move around safely. It’s also the Plexiglas at the cash register and training employees.”
Brisebois said retailers have been “amazing” throughout the pandemic as they’ve continued to pivot and invest time, money, and resources into keeping people safe.
“I think, like everybody else, retailers are experiencing pandemic fatigue,” she said.
“These are trying time, but retailers are, in a way, the heroes of the business community because of everything they’ve done to give us a sense of normalcy in our lives.”
Holiday store hours
- This holiday season, the New Sudbury Centre will be open to shoppers on Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Dec. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Walmart’s Sudbury South Supercentre, located on 2416 Long Lake Road, will be open on Dec. 24 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Dec. 26 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the Sudbury North Supercentre, located in the New Sudbury Centre mall, will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 24 and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Dec. 26.
- Costco’s Sudbury warehouse, located on 1465 Kingsway Boulevard, will be open on Dec. 24 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Boxing Day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Chris’ Your Independent Grocer (YIG) located on 82 Lorne Street will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 24 and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 26.
- Rehan’s YIG located on 1836 Regent Street will be open on Dec. 24 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Dec. 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- For more information on the opening hours of other YIG locations in Sudbury and districts, including Chelmsford and Lively, visit www.yourindependentgrocer.ca.
- The Real Canadian Superstore in New Sudbury will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 24 and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 26.
- The Sudbury Food Basics locations on Lasalle Boulevard and Regent Street will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 24 and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 26.
- Food Basics on Notre Dame Street will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 24 but will be closed on Boxing Day.
- All of the above retail stores will be closed on Dec. 25.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star