As second lockdown continues, local businesses are speaking out about how they’ve been impacted with the holiday season right around the corner.
Peel Region went into lockdown effective November 23 and is to remain in the Grey level for a total of 28 days.
Businesses have taken a hard hit, as many smaller retail and non-essential businesses have been ordered to close their doors, and to only allow curbside pickup or takeout.
Several Peel businesses understand the whys behind going into lockdown but feel not enough is being done to support them.
Forsters Book Garden, a long-time local business, stated that the lockdown was “the appropriate response, given the worsening of the situation.”
“Since we are not allowed to let customers in, it has reduced our sales as our items require perusal,” explained owner and local resident Donna Forster. “Now, our customers are not capable of doing that, so they need to know what they want or have to try to choose via our website.”
“It is a scramble taking items to people at the curb, trying to do so expediently so as not to make them wait there too long,” she added. “Sales, therefore, will be dramatically reduced.”
Forsters Book Garden has been independently serving the Caledon community since 1998 and has been dedicated to providing the community with new books of all genres for the past 20 years.
One key issue that several smaller businesses, as well as local officials, are concerned about is with the holiday season being a significant time for shopping and sales, the fairness of big box stores remaining open while smaller business suffer, seems to be in the back of everyone’s mind.
“While essential items are important to be able to shop in person for, it is unfair that only the big box stores, who also carry non-essential items, like the ones we carry, can be open for browsing,” said Forster. “That places the burden of limiting exposure to the pandemic on the back of small businesses who are already following all the rules and are equally capable of limiting numbers for physical distancing.”
Derrick Noble, owner of Noble Toyz, is concerned for not only his own business, but for all the other small businesses are who struggling to stay afloat during this second lockdown.
“We already lost 20 per cent of them across Canada after the first (lockdown),” he remarked. “We were asked to use curbside, which is totally unfair for a shop like mine, and heading into our busy season we would probably only do about 20 per cent of regular holiday sales which is 50 per cent of our yearly sales,” said Noble. “I have opened a few times and received fines and summons. I don’t know what the future holds but we have to fight for the small businesses to reopen.”
Businesses like Noble Toyz and Forsters Book Garden are hopeful that the local and provincial government hears their voices and changes can hopefully be made.
“Let the small shops reopen. Why can the Walmarts and Costcos stay open while we struggle to pay our bills?” asked Noble. “We went into a big deficit to stock up and fill the store for the holiday season, then they announced we had to close in 48 hours. We are now fighting for our rights and the support has been amazing.
“The store is stocked with the latest books, games, puzzles and stocking stuffers for Christmas. We can show some of these off at the door even if we can’t let people browse,” said Forster. “We post regularly on Facebook and Instagram. As much as possible we are directing customers to our website www.forstersbookgarden.ca. On a personal note, we will not see family outside of our own home for Christmas.”
The Provincial Government has introduced investments such as over $2.2 million through the Ontario Together Fund in order to provide smaller businesses with free financial advice and online training to help them navigate through this pandemic.
The Ontario Together Fund is a $50 million commitment to help businesses with their operations and services to reopen safely.
A Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Network was introduced for accessibility to digital tools and training and information on different programs.
Different types of grants and rebates have been made accessible for the Main Street Relief Grant to help businesses with their property tax and energy costs.
But the real question is, is it enough?
“Shop local and independent! Help lobby our government to level the playing field,” said Forster.
“We have so many amazing small shops in Bolton and Caledon,” concluded Noble. “They need you now more than ever.”
To learn more about Forsters Book Garden, please visit forstersbookgarden.ca and you visit Noble Toyz on their Facebook and Instagram.
Alyssa Parkhill, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Caledon Citizen