Winnipeg thrift stores booming amid coronavirus reopening, garage sales not so much

As the province moves to allow garage sales during COVID-19, Winnipeggers don't seem quite ready to embrace the summer tradition just yet. Getty Images

Public health officials have opened up both garage sales and thrift shops for bargain-hungry Winnipeggers amid COVID-19.

But less than a week after Manitoba’s chief public health officer gave the greenlight to hold and attend garage sales, Winnipeggers don’t seem quite ready to start the summer ritual just yet.

Just a handful of sales were listed on Saturday and there were none advertised on

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That’s surprising to Nadine Chappellaz, who runs the website and keeps a close eye on the city’s garage sale market for her blog on the site.

She said street corners in the city would normally be covered in garage sale signs this time of year.

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“I thought that people would be more excited but so far, it seems like people think it’s too early,” she said this week.

“But when you think about it, it’s going to be pretty hard logistically for the people running them, if 50 people show up at your garage sale I don’t know how you’re supposed to monitor that.”

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Answering your COVID-19 questions and reaction to reopening plan – Apr 30, 2020

Manitoba’s top doctor Dr. Brent Roussin said this week garage sales can go ahead under provincial health orders allowing groups of up to 50 outdoors, but stressed the importance of doing them safely.

“Be cautious with it,” he said when asked about garage sales at a press conference Monday.

“Certainly the orders don’t prohibit it, given the group sizes and it’s outdoors — but I would instill a bit of caution to make sure you’re washing hands frequently and that there isn’t crowding taking place.”

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Chappellaz says she’s heard from organizers of large-scale community garage sales — annual events that see whole neighbourhoods holding sales on the same day — and they’ve told her they’re not going ahead with the sales that can attract serious crowds.

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“The Whyte Ridge one for Mother’s Day, for example, is like 10,000 people, bumper to bumper for blocks — every street is people and people come from around the whole province,” she said.

“That would be a disaster.”

Thrift stores booming

Chappellaz says Winnipeg treasure hunters might be getting what they’ve been jonesing for through the pandemic from thrift stores, which have been allowed to open for a couple weeks.

Robin Searle, COO of the Kildonan MCC Thrift Store, says customers have been lining up to get into the store since they reopened with strict health measures in place May 19.

And it’s not just shoppers — Searle says the store has gotten so many donations since they unlocked their doors they’ve had to put limits on how often they can accept them.

“This is, you know, three to four times the normal volume that we would expect we would be receiving,” she said.

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“This is the busiest time of year for us under normal circumstances … but because of COVID and the way people have been purging, it’s been an unbelievable amount and we just don’t have the capacity.”

Searle said that capacity is especially limited because the store is quarantining all donations for three days before putting them on the shelves.

And it’s not just the MCC that’s seen an uptick in donations.

Both Value Village and the Salvation Army tell Global News they’ve seen a marked increase in donations as the province reopens and Winnipeggers come out of quarantine, although they haven’t had to limit donations yet.

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Both Value Village and Salvation Army are not accepting furniture donation though, and Salvation Army says it’s also quarantining the things it receives before reselling them.

Back at the Kildonan MCC Thrift Store, Searle says the spike in donations means it’s a good time to be a thrifter in Winnipeg.

“We always have the best donations to begin with … but the donations that we’ve been receiving are just absolutely amazing,” she said.

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“The first day reopened there was a huge lineup and I think people were afraid that we were going to run out of stuff, but I promise you we are not even close to that.

“You can come every day and find something new I promise you because we’re constantly putting new stuff out every day.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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