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The New Reality: Online sales boom for businesses that went digital during COVID-19

Delivery companies working overtime due to COVID-19
WATCH: The COVID-19 pandemic has given online shopping a boost because customers want the option to stay home. As Ashley Field reports, many businesses were able to shift sales online and that has delivery companies working overtime.

This is the 16th in a series of stories looking at the new reality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Maritimes. You can find the full series here.

Although online shopping has been growing for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has given the sector a massive boost as stores were forced to close and as customers wanted an option that would allow them to stay home.

At Nurtured Products for Parenting in Halifax, N.S., packing up an order for delivery is now a big part of the business.

“It felt like things flipped on their head for what we do in-store normally to than we would do online,” said Jolyn Swain, the owner of the store.

Read more: From curbside pickup to home delivery: COVID-19 is shifting how Canadians get groceries

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Nurtured Products for Parenting was forced to close in mid-March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But that’s when Swain noticed a steady increase in visitors to the store’s virtual storefront.

“I’m used to seeing really quiet…and all of a sudden that looked nine, 10 times higher,” she said.

Then, as people were told to stay home, Swain began offering a delivery service.

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“We won’t even ring your doorbell and wake your sleeping baby. We will text or call and let you know it’s coming out that day and place it on your doorstep,” she said.

The New Reality: Businesses change how they deliver, serve customer during coronavirus
The New Reality: Businesses change how they deliver, serve customer during coronavirus

While some businesses are doing deliveries themselves, others are turning to delivery to get their products into the hands of customers.

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“We’ve been running at peak levels since about May,” said John Ferguson, CEO of Purolator.

Read more: Shopify replaces RBC as Canada’s top company amid coronavirus

Purolator has added 100 jobs in the Maritimes in order to keep up with demand, said Ferguson.

Although e-commerce typically grows 20 to 30 per cent year-over-year, the pandemic has seen some retailers’ business balloon by 100 per cent, or even 300 per cent.

“Now we have a massive amount of e-commerce, residential shipping, plus businesses coming back. That’s why you’ve seen our announcement to hire 1,000 people,” said Ferguson.

“That’s how much the growth has been and the hiring has been just to keep up with the capacity needed across the country.”

Canada Post told Global News in a statement that it’s delivering in record numbers.

ADvice: The changing landscape of online shopping
ADvice: The changing landscape of online shopping

The Crown corporation even reached an all-time, one-day record on May 19, delivering 2.1 million parcels to Canadians — about three times the norm for this time of year.

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In order to keep up with demand, Canada Post is utilizing significant voluntary overtime and thousands of trained temporary employees.

It’s even operating its processing facilities 24/7 and delivering on weekends.

Whether Canadians prefer to browse in-person or online, Sawin said the pandemic has highlighted that businesses and shoppers have a growing list of options in front of them.

“I think we’re all very happy to have that post-traumatic growth, in how we look at the new ways of doing business, the new ways of shopping…the new ways of serving our customers,” she said.