Montreal-area business struggles in the shadow of big box store amid coronavirus pandemic

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Cornavirus: Montreal-area business struggles in the shadow of big box store amid pandemic
As the coronavirus outbreak pushes consumers to big box stores like Costco and Walmart, some small businesses say they’re seeing sales collapse. Global's Bradyen Jagger Haines reports – Apr 9, 2020

Business is booming for Costco amid the coronavirus pandemic as hundreds of shoppers lined up outside the store in Vaudreuil-Dorion on Thursday.

Just steps away, in its shadow, lies Luc La Prairie’s small business, which he says is barely earning enough to keep the lights on.

“Costco has a 400-foot lineup and I get 10 to 20 people a day. It’s awful,” said La Prairie, who owns William J. Walter.

Selling everything from sausages to craft beer, 98 per cent of the products in La Prairie’s store are from Quebec, with many from nearby surrounding regions.

La Prairie says springtime is his peak season as people fire up their grills. But since the pandemic started, his store has been empty.

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“The numbers should be going up, but instead they went down more than 25 per cent,” La Prairie said.

Despite numerous efforts to attract business by installing flags and signs, the loss of revenue has forced La Prairie to cut store hours and lay off his only employee.

The slowdown for smaller businesses is due to the stockpile shopping mentality, according to Retail Council of Canada president Marc Fortin.

“The mindset is, ‘I want to go in, get what I need and go home,'” Fortin said.

Fortin said it’s important to buy local to keep small businesses like La Prairie’s alive, calling them the backbone of the economy.

“He is an essential worker and part of the community, he needs to be supported,” Fortin said.

Measures have been put forward by the provincial government to boost the economy, including the Panier Bleu, an online platform to encourage Quebecers to buy locally, as well as various subsidies for businesses and individual workers alike.

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On Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault expressed optimism about the possibility of getting Quebec’s economy back on track after taking a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Non-essential businesses have been shuttered for weeks in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, which has had an impact on the economy.

La Prairie says he is struggling to stay open but is trying his best to weather the financial storm.

” I just hope that I can make it through, but that is life,” he said.

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