Saskatchewan parents start pandemic back-to-school shopping

Saskatchewan parents start pandemic back-to-school shopping
WATCH: Saskatchewan students have been out of school for months, but they're expected to return in September. Roberta Bell has more on what getting ready looks like this year.

Saskatchewan families’ preparing to send students back to school in just over a month are adding some items to their shopping lists that weren’t there in years past.

Marilee Teichler, who has children in grades 5, 8 and 9, says she purchased hand sanitizer and masks.

“I’m trying to get it before it sells out so i don’t run into problems later on,” said the mom, who was shopping at a Regina Walmart on Tuesday.

Martin Hu’s son is in Grade 4. Hu hasn’t purchased those items yet, but is planning to do so before September.

Saskatchewan schools closed in March as coronavirus cases began appearing in the province. Students were provided with learning resources to finish out the year.

Read more: It’s official: Saskatchewan schools are closed through September due to coronavirus

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School divisions have prepared plans for students’ return to the classroom this fall. The Ministry of Education is reviewing them for approval.

“From a teachers’ point of view, we have a lot of concerns,” said Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Patrick Maze. “We know that lots of preparations need to be done.

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“It’s a massive job every year getting ready for school startup and obviously this year comes with a whole bunch of new considerations that need to be planned out.”

Read more: Here’s what heading back to school in a pandemic will look like for Saskatchewan students

With non-essential brick-and-mortar retailers closed for months to try to stop the spread of COVID-19, online shopping boomed.

According to Statistics Canada, e-commerce hit a record $3.9 billion in May 2020, up more than 110 per cent over May 2019.

Read more: Online shopping sales surge by 99% in Canada amid coronavirus pandemic 

The Retail Council of Canada said consumers are expected to continue spending on discretionary items.

CEO and president Diane Brisebois said retailers are adapting to demand dictated by the pandemic.

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“We do predict that what will be sold will be very different from what was sold last year at this time,” she told Global News.

Brisebois said electronics, from cell phones to laptops, were selling well even before the pandemic. Now, with more people working from home, sales have taken off, she said.

Furniture stores have been doing good business as well, according to Brisebois, “especially those that have a large assortment of desks.”

Brisebois expects these trends will continue into the back-to-school season, but that sales for the time period will not surpass last year’s numbers.

With fall plans still being finalized and some parents skeptical about sending their kids back into the physical buildings, Brisebois said apparel sales may not be what they’ve been in the past.

“That segment of the retail market is dependent on what the different jurisdictions will decide,” she noted.

Active coronavirus cases rise over 300 in Saskatchewan
Active coronavirus cases rise over 300 in Saskatchewan