Bloor West Village is a shopping and dining destination that, like many parts of the country, has been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Ontario’s strict lockdown measures.
“It has impacted my neighbours quite severely. Although they’re doing their best to do virtual services or online auctions, even opening online stores in a matter of days to serve their customers, I would say it has impacted us largely. We’re not getting the same passerby traffic,” said Bianca Charles, the owner of Feet First Clinic.
Charles, who is also on the board of directors for the Bloor West Village BIA, says nearly a dozen of the area’s 400 businesses have been forced to close permanently.
“They’re making due but it’s super challenging.”
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 160,000 businesses in Canada will be forced to close by the end of the pandemic.
That’s one in seven businesses shuttering due to declining revenue and the inability to operate even at partial capacity.
“We’ve got to find a better pathway. We do believe that there are safe ways to allow smaller firms to continue to serve customers without shutting them down 100 per cent,” explained CFIB president Dan Kelly.
Kelly says Alberta, Nova Scotia and even Quebec have all put in restrictions which allow retailers to remain open for in-person shopping, just at a limited capacity.
Quebec, for example, bases their occupancy on square footage.
“The province (Ontario) I don’t think has fully appreciated just how deep that anger is, that smaller or single-line retailers are not allowed to serve any customers in-store while their large counterparts are even busier, with lineups of people into the store and out of the store at Costco and Walmart,” added Kelley.
Ontario businesses who do not have grocery options have been forced to resort to online and curbside pickup.
“I think this is going to change how we do business and where we do business dramatically,” said Richard Powers, a professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
“It’s changing everything: groceries, drug stores, all these things are going online with delivery. We see the proliferation with food companies now delivering prepared or ingredients to prepare your own foods. Sales are going through the roof for those companies.”
As Toronto and Peel near the end of a 28-day lockdown, businesses are hoping the Ford government considers loosening restrictions which would allow them to operate again at a further reduced capacity.
“It will be interesting to see how many people actually can withstand this particular closing,” added Charles.