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Montreal Boxing Day returns after two years

Click to play video: 'Montreal Boxing Day returns after two years' Montreal Boxing Day returns after two years
WATCH: Despite a jump in COVID cases, many shoppers were still out on Sunday keeping up the old tradition of looking for a good sale. It's the first boxing day in Montreal in two years but with the city in the middle of a fifth wave, it's not as busy as some were hoping. Elizabeth Zogalis reports – Dec 26, 2021

Despite a jump in COVID-19 cases, many shoppers were still out on Sunday keeping up the old tradition of looking for a good sale.

It’s the first boxing day in Montreal in two years but with the city in the middle of a fifth wave, it wasn’t as busy as some were hoping.

Last year Quebec went on its second lockdown on Dec. 26, cancelling any shopping plans there might have been. This year, things were expected to be a lot better.

“Three weeks ago we were expecting a record boxing day,” says Montreal Centre Ville Executive Director Glenn Castanheira.

“We had seen a record foot fall downtown and record sales. Everything was doing great. Now given the circumstances, it’s too soon to tell but we’re definitely not breaking any record,” he says.

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With COVID cases surging across the province, many shoppers opted to stay away from large crowds. One shopper at best buy says he was disappointed with the smaller than expected crowd, but says he understands. “Better safe than sorry,” he said.

Read more: COVID-19: Holiday plans on hold as Omicron variant takes over Quebec

According to the Retail Council of Canada, a survey conducted in October showed Canadians were more optimistic going into the 2021 holiday shopping season.

In-store shopping was predicted to increase with online sales expected to continue to be strong.

Sixty-three per cent of total purchases were anticipated to be in store this year and 37 per cent online.

Pre-pandemic stats from 2019 were very different, with 72 per cent of total purchases planned to be in-store and 28 per cent of sales online.

For boxing day specifically, Quebecers are less likely to shop when compared to the rest of Canada. But fears over Omicron have most likely skewed those numbers.

Read more: New gathering limits come into effect in Quebec as COVID-19 cases soar across Canada

Even shoppers who chose to head out to a Brick and Mortar store admit online shopping is becoming more enticing. There is also another obstacle for many retailers and shoppers.

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“We already had a problem with a shortage of labour before the fifth wave,” said Castanheira. “Now we’re seeing a lot of breakouts so a lot of retailers are not able to open.”

But despite all that by mid afternoon on Sunday, Saint-Catherine Street was still a hot spot, with many shoppers lined up outside of stores waiting for a deal. According to Castanheira, it’s a very good sign.

“When we see people walking about, many of them not even shopping just enjoying their day, it does give us hope.”

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