Montrealers took to standing in long lines as retail stores in the area reopened on Monday after they were shuttered more than two months ago due to the novel coronavirus pandemic
Serge Benoualid was happy to wait outside the Hudson’s Bay department store in Pointe-Claire, in Montreal’s West Island, to buy new summer clothes.
“I’m not a big shopper online,” he said. “I don’t believe in shopping online. My wife has attempted to shop online a few times and it takes so long to get here with Canada Post.”
The Greater Montreal area is the last region in Quebec, the province hardest hit by the health crisis, to reopen retail stores so long as they have an outdoor entrance and can ensure physical distancing. Shopping malls are still closed.
The reopening doesn’t necessarily mean that stores will operate the way they did before COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, bore down on Montreal.
Some retailers are opting for extra protective measures, such as plexiglass and no-touch browsing. In Montreal, some business say they’re adapting to the new reality by limiting customers, offering appointments and offering contactless pay and options to collect orders made online.
Steve Galazzo, the owner of Galazzo jewelry stores in Pointe-Claire, said he is taking extra precautions to ensure customers feel safe.
“We’ve got the Purell, the gloves,” he said. “We have a masks for clients who wants one.”
While some retailers are ready to welcome customers, some remain closed until further notice. A spokesperson for Indigo Books and Music said the company will keep all of its Quebec locations closed but will provide more information once it has reopening dates to share.
Earlier this month, retail stores opened in other parts of the province less affected by the pandemic. Business owners have noticed a few differences, including slower sales and a change in customer habits.
The reopening of retail stores in Montreal comes as the Quebec government continues to ease restrictions aimed at the containing the virus.
As of last week, outdoor gatherings of a maximum of 10 people are permitted. Other kinds of businesses, such as spas and private health services, are expected to resume operations next week in most areas.
Daycares are expected to open in the region, which remains the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak in Canada, next week.
Quebec leads the country when it comes to caseload at more than 47,000 cases. The province also accounts for the most deaths attributable to COVID-19 with 4,069 fatalities as of Monday.
Montreal remains the Canadian hot spot for COVID-19, with more than 24,000 cases as of Monday. But despite the numbers, many shoppers said they weren’t worried about their health.
“A lot of people are getting depressed,” said Sami Derian, who shopped at H&M in downtown Montreal. “I think it just helps people to be able to get out and see people outside. It just feels good.”
— With files from Global News’ Dan Spector and the Canadian Press