Lethbridge stores navigate Boxing Day during COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Boxing Day during COVID-19: How Lethbridge businesses handled the annual shopping rush' Boxing Day during COVID-19: How Lethbridge businesses handled the annual shopping rush
WATCH ABOVE: Despite the pandemic, many in Lethbridge took to stores on Boxing Day, looking for deals on electronics, furniture, and more. Eloise Therien has more on how corporate and local stores handled the surge of customers on Dec. 26. – Dec 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t deter Lethbridge residents from the typical Boxing Day shopping Saturday, with many braving outside line-ups to cash in on some deals.

Best Buy’s single Lethbridge location on Mayor Magrath Drive S began curbside pickup — which they implemented back in the summer — at six o’clock Saturday morning. Two hours later, they opened their doors.

“When we opened at eight we had a hundred, a hundred-fifty people lined up outside already waiting to come in,” store leader Linda Oldford said.

People could be seen carrying TVs, audio systems, and other electronics to their cars throughout the day as they hit one of the city’s popular Boxing Day locations.

Read more: Unpacking Boxing Day: The unclear origins of the post-Christmas holiday

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Due to COVID-19, the shopping experience at the electronics store is much more quaint this year, with a maximum capacity of 55 shoppers to meet 15 per cent provincial capacity requirements.

Oldford adds the company has had Boxing Day pricing for much of December in an effort to reduce the single-day attendance on Dec. 26.

Despite this, a consistent line of shoppers could be seen waiting outside in the mild winter conditions, as staff kept a close eye on the entrance and exit.

“This is the first year for really counting people coming and going,” Oldford added. “People move in-and-out pretty quick… we’ve got some people that know exactly what they need, which is good.”

While a rise in online shopping has been observed nationwide since the onset of the pandemic, Oldford said there’s a reason some choose not to hop on their keyboard for their purchases.

“There’s a lot of people that want to come in and want to see, and have questions before they buy.”

Read more: COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t stop Calgary shoppers on Boxing Day

Meanwhile, some local businesses hosted sales of their own, while others remained closed for the statutory holiday.

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“Every year we do everything 20 per off in the store here,” Elizabeth Sudo, operations manager of King of Trade, said midday Saturday. “We’re hopefully expecting regular sales today.”

Unlike Best Buy and other large retailers, King of Trade doesn’t currently have an online shopping presence. The store, located on 5th Ave. in downtown Lethbridge, sells a large variety of items, from music and video games, to sports memorabilia and jewelry.

“We have our stock almost ready to go online,” Sudo said. “It’s an overwhelming amount of items so we’re not quite there yet… but I mean luckily we haven’t had to because people are still walking in the doors, coming in and giving us sales.”

As well, Sudo says their large storefront usually never meets the 15 per cent capacity of 40 shoppers, meaning Boxing Day isn’t too hectic for them.

Unlike big-box retailers or small retailers with a diminutive capacity, they haven’t had to worry about shoppers waiting outside.

With their size, she added, they act as a downtown destination, which encourages shoppers to explore smaller shops in the area.

“Our store is a really good [kind of] medium between a mall and a smaller business,” she said. “We’ve got a wide variety of items and you can feel safe shopping in here because there’s not a ton of people in here at once.”
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With a push to shop local for Christmas, Sudo said support from the community has been overwhelming up to this point.

She hopes with slower sales months creeping closer that the public will still keep shopping local in mind, even when current sales aren’t around.

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