Canadian Manufacturing

Consumers feel safer shopping at small businesses over big box stores: poll

93% of Canadians support continuing to allow small retailers to serve a limited number of people

December 8, 2020  by CM Staff

Businesses are slowly beginning to reopen amid COVID-19. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

TORONTO — Nine in 10 consumers say that provinces should allow small, local retailers to remain open with a limited number of customers, according to new public opinion research conducted by Maru/Matchbox on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“It makes no sense at all to close small businesses that are deemed non-essential to in-store shopping while pushing crowds to big box stores who are permitted to sell the same merchandise, like Ontario has done in Toronto and Peel,” said Dan Kelly, president at CFIB, in a prepared statement. “If reducing time spent indoors in crowds is the objective, consumers understand that shopping in neighbourhood small businesses is a better choice.”

Nearly three quarters of Canadians said they feel safer shopping at a small local business with reduced capacity than at a big box store such as Costco or Walmart.

In addition, 87% of Canadians agreed that closing small retailers to in-store sales while allowing big box stores to remain open is unfair.

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“To date, no other province has implemented Ontario’s bizarre rule to shut tight small retailers who may have a few in-store customers per day while allowing lines to grow at big box stores selling similar goods. While Manitoba’s rules are equally restrictive on small firms, they are at least fair as big box stores are also prohibited from selling non-essential goods,” Kelly noted. CFIB notes that Saskatchewan’s policy is to allow small retailers to continue to serve customers, while placing a 50% capacity restriction on big box stores.

With growing reports that Ontario may expand its “grey zone” retail restrictions to other parts of the province, CFIB is calling on the province to ensure it adopts an improved approach to COVID-19 safety that would give small businesses a chance to survive into 2021.