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CICC joins Ontario Vaccination Support Council

Asks that convenience workers be included with other essential retail workers in province’s vaccination plans



The Convenience Industry Council of Canada is part of the new Ontario Vaccination Support Council (OVSC), founded by close to 100 businesses, organizations, and the Ontario Chamber Network.

“The group is made up of a diverse and important group of businesses and organizations and CICC is pleased to have a seat at this table and contribute to this important initiative,” the CICC said in a recent email to members.

The OVSC, whose members represent hundreds of thousands of employees from across the province, is “to provide support for Ontario’s historic COVID-19 vaccination effort with the ultimate goal of ending the pandemic.”

The Council will be co-chaired by James Scongack, EVP of corporate affairs & operational services at Bruce Power and Garrick Tiplady, the managing director of Facebook.

“We are pleased to launch the Ontario Vaccination Support Council with our partners at Bruce Power and Facebook Canada,” said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the OCC. “The faster the Ontario population is inoculated, the faster we can safely reopen and work together on the province’s economic recovery. Ontario’s business community stands ready to assist in the fight against COVID-19 and help drive our economic recovery in the future.”

As vaccines are being administered across the country to priority workers, CICC has already connected with provincial governments asking that convenience workers be included with other essential retail workers in their vaccination plans.
The OVSC brings together a diverse group of OCC members, representing a range of sectors, to share pertinent information and provide government with timely and evidence-based recommendations. According to a release, the group will:
  • Provide Ontario’s business community with a window into the Ontario Vaccine Distribution Task Force to share public health information; updates on logistics and distribution plans and seek input on non-health-related issues.
  • Consolidate a directory of capabilities and services within the Chamber Network that could be utilized and procured by government, hospitals and public health in the distribution of vaccinations.
  • Share policies, best practices and approaches with government to ensure the maximum participation of employers and their employees in vaccination efforts with a specific focus on being proactive and removing barriers.

“Now more than ever we need an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach to engage and support Ontario’s historic vaccination program with the ultimate goal of ending the pandemic. While there will be challenges ahead in such a large and critical effort, the Council will bring together Ontario’s business community, leveraging their agility, capability, innovation, and engagement to ensure we face this challenge together as Ontarians,” said Scongack.


Sweet comforts

From nostalgic classics to new innovations, candy is getting a new lease on life during the pandemic



If you’ve found yourself indulging in sweet treats more often over the past few months, you’re not alone. Canadians seem to be finding comfort in candy amid the stress of the pandemic, with Nielsen reporting Canadian confectionery sales were up by more than 3% in August 2020, compared to the previous year.

And at Mintel, Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight, food and drink, says the pandemic changed the trajectory of 2020 confectionery sales, which were initially down from 2019. “Consumers began to defect from candy categories, cutting back on consumption in order to maintain their health; but COVID changed that,” says Mogelonsky. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that consumers, seeking comfort and security, are buying candy again.”

Mintel’s data indicates that young adults, in particular, enjoy the sense of nostalgia that some candy products bring. Nostalgia and comfort seem to be the driving forces behind the growth in candy sales at Alberta-based grocer Freson Bros., according to Lesleah Horvat, general manager and floral specialist. Horvat says their stores have seen an increase in candy sales, overall, but the boost has been especially large in the specialty candy section, which focuses on retro products.

Indeed, sales in the retailer’s specialty candy section have jumped by as much as 20% in some stores this year, says Horvat. “This candy isn’t your traditional grocery candy—the price points are higher—so [consumers] are treating themselves to a higher-priced item,” she says.

It may not have been the ideal year for new releases, however, says Kimberly Snyder, candy brand manager for Dare Food Limited. She says sales of Dare Cherry Canadian Eh, which was released in the summer of 2020, were not as strong as the company had hoped. “We chalked that up to the fact that fewer consumers were physically in stores and they wouldn’t see it,” explains Snyder. “If they’re doing online shopping, they wouldn’t have heard of it because it was new so they wouldn’t be searching for it.”

The desire for comfort also seems to be fuelling a trend towards bulk candy purchases. Mike Dziadyk, space and category management director for B.C.-based grocer Quality Foods, says he’s seen an uptick in the sales of larger-format candy packages this year. “I think with COVID, people are choosing to indulge more at home and [are] picking up a lot of what they want,” he says. Dziadyk adds that long, physically-distanced lineups of the  pandemic have created an opportunity for Quality Foods stores to add more displayers around the check-out areas to showcase these larger-format packs. “They’re right there as people are lined up, so they have no choice but to see them,” he says.

The trend towards larger format packs has also been observed by Mars Wrigley, according to marketing director Barbara Cooper. “We see ourselves in a category centred around moments, and many of them are rooted in immediate or impulse consumption,” explains Cooper.

“Mars Wrigley quickly identified that stay-at-home restrictions and less frequent trips to the store meant that how and when people shop was changing, and that this was going to have an impact on these impulse moments,” she adds, noting that consumers are now more likely to stock up on larger bags of candy for future consumption.

Consumer desire for larger bags of classic candy, however, doesn’t mean the trend towards better-for-you candies is slowing, says Dare’s Snyder. “I think low-sugar is here to stay. It’s not a fad,” she says, pointing to Vancouver-based SmartSweets as a company that’s shaken up the market with its low-sugar candies. SmartSweets debuted its first plant-based candies in 2018, and Snyder adds that vegan and plant-based candy is another emerging trend.

Vegan candy has long been a pillar for Squish, a Montreal-based candy company that launched in 2014. “I was surprised there weren’t more interesting vegan options in the market and I still think it’s quite limited in terms of flavour,” says Squish founder Sarah Segal. “Brands don’t have as much fun with it,” she adds. “They think it’s a serious category, whereas we think it’s as exciting as non-vegan. I think that’s why we’ve resonated.”

Ultimately, while consumers seem to crave the choice offered by low-sugar and plant-based candies, it’s important not to underestimate the classics. “The thing with candy is there’s a difference between what people say they’ll do and what they actually do,” says Snyder. “No one wants to admit ‘yeah, I’m eating way more candy.’ People will say they’re trying to be healthier, but then there’s the reality of dealing with a global pandemic and wanting to have affordable luxuries and indulgences. That’s where candy fits in.”

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 


Retail shakeup is here to stay

COVID-19 has transformed consumer behaviour



Nearly a year into the pandemic, economists believe it’s abundantly clear that COVID-19 has psychologically and materially transformed Canada’s consumer behaviour.

But with lockdowns and restrictions still in effect across much of the country, business experts say the dust has yet to settle around these “tectonic shifts” in the state of commerce. That means for retailers–big and small; local or national–preparing a pathway to adapt beyond the pandemic remains a muddy prospect.

A new report by fintech firm PayBright released this week suggests the key to navigating future strategies for businesses is to use concrete data about where potential customers and clients stand in 2021.

Surveying more than 2,500 people from coast to coast, the 24-page study points to statistics that show how Canadians are approaching, and not approaching, their future shopping habits. Trends indicate significant changes have been seen in the “5 Ps” of consumer behaviour: products, payments, planning, place and psychology.

“If 2020 was a year of disruption and uncertainty for Canadians, this will certainly be the year of building safety, security, and long-term solutions,” said Wayne Pommen, senior vice-president of Affirm Holdings Inc., which owns PayBright. “This is especially crucial as Canadians gain access to vaccines and look ahead to living in a post-pandemic world.”

Findings in the report show shoppers are becoming increasingly discerning about where and how they spend their money.

Around 55% said they now read several product reviews before making a purchase, and 38% said they prefer to spend more money to purchase premium brands or products to avoid lower-quality items that do not last. Around 52% also said they are likely to avoid doing business with a brand that does not align with their ethics and values.

On top of that, the pandemic has caused people to hold back on their overall spending.

While 49% anticipated no significant change to their planned 2021 budget, 36% predicted a decrease and only 3% said they would increase their spending. From an age perspective, those most likely to experience a decrease in their 2021 budget are those in the 18-24 and 35-44 age ranges.

In terms of clothing and basics (such as groceries or pharmaceuticals), only about 10% of respondents said they would spend more in those categories. But 43% said they’ll be spending less on clothing versus only 22% for basics.

Authors of the report believe retailers with basics in their catalogue should emphasize essential products both in-store and online, citing a rise in earnings for supermarket chains who have done this. They also said stores should ramp up on their reviews because fewer of them could mean less likelihood of making a sale. Deals and sales, however, will continue to be significant drivers behind consumer purchases in 2021, they added, noting personal protection is almost just as important when it comes to in-store purchases.

“Frankly though, no matter what time period you compare this to, we haven’t seen trends like this ever before,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a leading supply chain expert who’s a professor at Dalhousie University. “COVID’s legacy is concerning because it’s pretty much changed everything.”

From skyrocketing e-commerce as businesses quickly moved online, to the lasting trends predicted for in-store shopping such as sanitization stations and social-distancing measures, Charlebois explained how none of those changes would have ever happened without the pandemic.

“Even if everyone does get vaccinated, people are just generally very risk-averse now,” he said. “That’s a massive psychological shift which translates to the fact that businesses will also not be taking risks by eliminating these measures anytime soon.”

Dan Pontefract, a strategist who consults for large companies like Salesforce and TD Bank, said businesses would need to get creative and unique with their solutions. “And it has to happen fast,” he said, “or they probably won’t survive.”

He also said creating the “perfect COVID shopping experience is incredibly important,” whereby customers can seamlessly be moved from shopping in-person to shopping online.

“Ultimately, it’s all about the consumer,” said Pontefract. “And for better for worse, what we do know is that they’re the ones making these trends go all over the place –so they’re the ones you should follow.”


P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers after weak cold and cough season

Shutterstock_flu_virus_handwashingA lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Island Abbey Foods said Friday sales of its Honibe cough and cold lozenges have declined in the first two quarters of 2021, forcing the Charlottetown company to cut 30 temporary positions from its production operation.

Measures aimed at curbing the pandemic such as masks, frequent hand washing, physical distancing and working from home appear to have lessened the prevalence of seasonal viruses.

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies aimed at soothing sore throats and nasal congestion.

Both Metro Inc., which operates drugstores primarily under the Jean Coutu, Brunet, Metro Pharmacy and Drug Basics banners, and Loblaw Companies Ltd., which has a network of Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix outlets, have noted the weak cough and cold season.

Metro president and CEO Eric La Fleche told analysts during a conference call in November that it appeared to be a “much weaker cold and flu season,” as the increase in sanitary measures due to COVID-19 appear to help curb the spread of seasonal viruses.

Loblaw president Sarah Davis also noted during a call with investors in November that the company was looking at ways to offset a declining trend in the cough and cold sector.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s weekly influenza report earlier this month said flu activity remains “exceptionally low” for this time of year.

The FluWatch report for the week of Jan. 3 to 9 said flu testing continues at seasonal levels but there is “no evidence of community circulation of influenza.”

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor at Dalhousie University, said respiratory viruses like the common cold, seasonal influenza or the coronavirus all spread in similar ways.

“If you take away the way we spread one virus from person to person, you do the same thing for another virus,” she said, noting that measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission appear to be helping slow the spread of other viruses.

But Barrett said early indications that it will be a weaker cold and flu season this year is also about the reduction in international travel.

“In the beginning of every season, the virus comes from somewhere and that’s related to travel,” she said. “Different respiratory viruses circulate through the hemispheres. If there’s less travel, there’s also less bringing of the virus back to it’s seasonal place.”

For Island Abbey Foods, the decline in demand for its cough and cold lozenges comes on the heels of a “tremendous year” in 2020, said Scott Spencer, president and chief operating officer.

“We increased head count significantly across our company to meet higher than anticipated demand and position our company for success,” he said in a statement.

The Charlottetown company has continuously adapted to the ever-changing business realities that COVID-19 is imposing on the world, he said.

Despite substantial gains with its digital retail strategy, Spencer said online sales have not replaced the volume the company projected for a regular cold and cough season.

The company said demand for its gummy products continues to be strong. It said planning is underway for a major expansion project, which includes state of the art equipment that will increase capacity to meet growing demand.



Ontario declares State of Emergency

C-stores and gas stations to remain open as essential services



In a bid to combat rising COVID-19 numbers, Ontario issuing a stay-at-home order and issuing enhanced enforcement measures to reduce mobility. For c-stores, which are considered an essential service, here’s what you need to know:

  • As part of the efforts, effective Thursday, January 14, 2021at 12:01 a.m., everyone is to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m.
  • The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.

“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences,” said Premier Ford. “That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order. We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments. By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives.”

Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. In addition, wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.

Under the declaration of a provincial emergency, the province will provide authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers (Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors) to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order, or those not wearing a mask or face covering indoors, as well as retail operators and companies who do not enforce. Those who decide not to abide by orders will be subject to set fines and/or prosecution.

In addition, enforcement personnel will have the authority to temporarily close a premise that is in contravention of an order.

“Extraordinary action is needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians as we deal with this growing crisis,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Our government is providing police and bylaw officers with the tools, and the authority, they need to enforce these critical restrictions and protect public health.”

READ: Quebec’s curfew impacts c-stores


Q&A: What should I do if an employee has COVID-19?



Q: What should I do if an employee has COVID-19?

A: COVID-19 constitutes a workplace hazard under the Canada Labour Code, which means employers are responsible for the occupational health and safety of their employees. In turn, employers have an obligation to investigate and report confirmed cases of COVID-19 in order to prevent the recurrence of exposure.

It’s important to move quickly to mitigate spread.

  1. Mandate all employees to download the COVID-19 tracking app. 
  2. Instruct employees who have symptoms to stay home from work and get tested.
  3. In larger chains, managers should seek direction from the HR team if an employee is ill and subsequently tests positive for COVID-19.
  4. Independent operators are advised to consult local public health authorities to report and obtain guidance on next steps.
  5. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers may be told to inform fellow employees of their possible exposure, but maintain confidentiality.
  6. Ask all employees to monitor for symptoms.
  7. Public health may instruct employers to also notify affected customers, visitors, and vendors and instruct those employees who came into direct contact with the sick employee to self-isolate for 14 days.
  8. It’s important to keep those you’ve informed up to date if information changes. 
  9. Conduct enhanced cleaning and disinfection after an employee (or customer) suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in your store. 
  10. Remind those who test positive to report via the COVID-19 tracking tool.

The rules are constantly evolving and can differ from region to region.

Access these additional Federal Guidelines for the latest information and to answer detailed questions about COVID-19 in the workplace. 



POST Promise: Strength in numbers 

Movement helps retailers build consumer confidence

Sometimes, operating a business during a period of constant disruption can feel like lonely business indeed. During the past 10 months of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, convenience stores were deemed essential and charged with making changes across businesses to safeguard employees and customers. 

In some cases, operators relied on associations for help, others adapted with the help of fellow business owners and a lot of ingenuity. Many have asked Convenience Store News Canada for guidance in terms of best practices and tips for keeping everyone safe. 

LOGO_ENNow a not-for-profit corporation aims to bring together business owners across the country to tackle what’s being called a “consumer confidence crisis” and communicate that Canadian businesses—both big and small—are putting health and safety first.  

POST Promise/Promesse APRES is a national, bilingual private sector-led initiative designed to help Canadians confidently and safely shop and work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It launched in June and the movement is gaining momentum among business owners looking for best practices to adopt during the pandemic. The five key steps that make up the POST Promise are in line with what is recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

laura-hearn (003)Laura Hearn, president and executive director of POST Promise, says it’s about consistency: “One of the things I get asked a lot is, ‘we’re already following various protocols and procedures. Why would we need POST Promise?’ What we know, however, is that it is just as important to make customers feel safe, as it is to keep them safe. When all businesses are doing something slightly different and communicating it differently, there is a lot of confusion on what the right approach is.”

Retailers who “make the promise” are able to use and display the POST Promise logo, which acts as a clear indication to employees and customers that they are doing their part to protect Canadians’ health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The POST Promise is supposed to sit on top of what businesses are doing and to be a consistent approach conveyed through a consistent visual cue, hence the word mark. The beauty is it is applicable to all businesses regardless of size and other factors,” says Hearn. “You have large companies who have really strategic and complicated policies in place and a marketing team that can communicate it. However, for small or medium-sized businesses that don’t necessarily have that expertise, this means you don’t have to go out and create something of your own. You can be part of a national collective. Customers are seeing the same thing when they come to shop with you or to do their banking or restaurant dining. There is a lot of power in what that conveys to consumers and employees.”

While POST Promise is relevant to all types of business, Hearn says it’s particularly effective for the convenience industry. “With the sheer amount of foot traffic that convenience stores get, they are interacting with a lot of customers that have varying degrees of comfort.”

Organizations, including Retail Council of Canada and Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, and all levels of government, have already endorsed this initiative. 

There is no cost to join—sponsors and donors are supporting the group—and c-stores can quickly tap into resources.  

“It’s not like they make the promise and that is it,” says Hearn. “It is really important to equip businesses with the tools that they need to let their employees and customers know that they have made the promise and what that signifies. We provide things, like sample social media copy and assets so that they have a social presence to use. Or, simple email copy so they can send an email blast to their consumer base—of course they can tweak if needed. We provide frequently asked questions that they can share with employees so that if their consumers have questions they have answers.”

C-store operators who make the promise automatically get access to a free downloadable PDF of the POST Promise logo, which they can print and display on premise or use in online communications. Participating businesses can also purchase a kit ($10), which includes additional communication tools like window decals, posters and tent cards for use in store. 

“This is not going away any time soon, unfortunately,” says Hearn. “There is so much uncertainty—now more than ever we need to have something that provides that peace of mind.”


Ontario surpasses 5,000 reported COVID-19 deaths as cabinet debates new restrictions

New restrictions to fight skyrocketing rates of COVID-19 were being considered by Ontario’s cabinet Monday night, although a curfew was not one of them.

The discussion took place as the province hit the grim milestone of recording more than 5,000 deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Premier Doug Ford said residents can expect an announcement on new measures on Tuesday, when the province will also make new COVID-19 projections public.

“We worked all weekend … right until late hours last night,” he said as he arrived at the legislature ahead of Monday night’s cabinet meeting.

“We’ll be going to cabinet with recommendations.”

Ford did not elaborate on the recommendations but has said the current provincial lockdown may need to be extended and stricter measures could be imposed if cases continue to soar.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, said a curfew was not among the recommendations going before cabinet, adding that she had seen no evidence one would be effective.

She noted, however, that current trends in the province were “scary” and said as many as a third of residents surveyed reported they are not following public health guidelines.

“The bottom line is people know what they should be doing,” she said. “It’s a shame that we have to wait for government to force them into doing the right thing.”

The latest spike in cases can be attributed in part to people gathering over the holidays, growing outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes, and workplace outbreaks, Yaffe said.

More must be done to help residents comply with public health rules, she said, including instituting paid sick days, bringing in eviction protections, and making isolation hotels available.

“It’s not going to be an easy few weeks,” Yaffe said. “But what these trends demonstrate is that further actions are necessary.”

Officials in government and health-care have warned that surging cases are putting great strain on the health-care system.

Projections made public in late December showed that Ontario’s ability to control the spread of COVID-19 was “precarious,” but tough lockdowns lasting a month or more could cut the number of daily cases significantly.

That data, released on Dec. 21, showed that if COVID-19 case rates continued to grow between one to three per cent, the province would have 3,000 to 5,000 daily cases by the end of January.

Ontario has recorded well over 3,000 cases daily for the last week, with 3,338 new cases reported Monday.

It also reported 29 new deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total number of deaths reported to 5,012 since the start of the pandemic.

The government said 1,563 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, with 387 people in intensive care and 268 on ventilators.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused the Ford government of “stalling” on new public health restrictions, a move she said will cost lives.

“Tougher measures are not only overdue, they must be backed by a major investment in immediate supports like paid sick days for every Ontarian, safe isolation facilities, and direct financial help for small business owners and individuals,” she said in a statement.

Liberal health critic John Fraser said the government is displaying a “lack of urgency” despite the rising death toll from the virus.

“We have seen firsthand how delays cost lives,” he said in a statement. “Time is our greatest asset during a pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex said that his hard-hit region has now completed the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations in all its long-term care homes.

The provincial government pledged last week to give COVID-19 vaccines by Jan. 21 to all long-term care residents, workers and caregivers in hot-spot regions.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Monday that he believed Windsor-Essex had become the first health unit in the province to accomplish the goal.

“Our long-term care homes have seen the worst of the outbreaks,” he said. “They have really come through. They really worked with us to get all of this done ahead of schedule.”

On Monday, Ontario reported giving 8,859 more doses of the vaccine since its last daily update, with 122,105 total doses now administered.


Manitoba businesses chafe under extended orders

It’s an elongated state of flux for Manitoba businesses, as the province announced January 9 a two-week extension for stringent pandemic restrictions.

While chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin had expected to “at least somewhat relax” code red guidelines Friday, instead COVID-19 new case counts creeping up after the holiday season means: “Now is not the time to make that decision.”

At least until Jan. 22, things like getting a haircut, shopping for clothes or buying personal electronics in-store will remain prohibited. Save for essential retailers such as grocery stores and pharmacies, all non-essential establishments – among them restaurants, pubs and beauty salons -remain shuttered.

“We want the least-restrictive means necessary,” said Roussin, adding he understands the disappointment about stretching out orders which have been in place across Manitoba since November.

“Somebody who’s a small-business owner is frustrated, somebody who wants to go visit their parents is frustrated,” he said. “But when you open things up, we’ll see numbers increase.”

For business owners, however, it’s more than frustration _ it’s an increased threat to their livelihood, with anxieties about long-term economic survival.

Commerce stakeholders believe the province waited too long to announce an unchanged extension. Rules should have been adjusted to allow capacity limits or appointment services for storefronts that could safely reopen, if permitted, advocates said.

“It’s extremely challenging and concerning when you relay these rules 24 hours before they were to end,” said Chuck Davidson, president and chief executive officer of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. “And it’s disheartening because businesses have been following all the necessary precautions and were really looking forward to opening again.”

Davidson said there has been “no science or indications” transmission is occurring at specific locations.

“It’s hard to get business owners to understand why they should remain closed when that data isn’t there and those metrics haven’t been clear,” he said.

At Silver Heights Restaurant in Winnipeg, that’s exactly why owner Tony Siwicki feels defeated.

“We’ve had no customers in our doors for more than 10 weeks and we’re following every single rule to a T,” he said.

“But you’re telling us that somehow we’re still a contributing reason for increasing cases or will become a reason if we opened? That’s just a bogus assumption.”

Amanda Deroy Sheriff, who runs Beauty Box by Sheriff on Ellice Avenue, with her sisters and mother, agreed.

“We’re a salon and we can take appointments,” she said. “Doesn’t that make us safe to reopen when we can space people out and only take a few of them in?”

Such concerns are part of “a growing anger within the business community,” said Loren Remillard, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “It seems as though they’re having to carry a disproportionate weight and cost during the pandemic.”

That’s why Jonathan Alward, Prairies director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, hopes the province will continue to provide more financial relief as restrictions linger on. “Otherwise, I’m concerned that too many more businesses are going to start closing down for good.”

For now, however, it remains to be seen whether the province will adjust guidelines in the coming weeks.

“We’ve considered a number of options for this set of orders,” said Roussin. “Any time we feel the numbers support it, we’re going to start pulling back restrictions.”



Quebec curfew impacts c-stores – here’s what you need to know

Shutterstock_curfewQuebec dépanneurs are feeling the repercussions of Quebec’s curfew.

According to a CBC report, “owners say their most lucrative hours are about to be taken away, as most residents are required to be in their homes from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. each night.

“The four hours until 11 p.m. have the highest turnover. Now, they are cutting it,” says Michel Youssef, the owner of Dépanneur Beau Soir in St-Henri.

Until now, convenience stores across the country have been spared the tight restrictions imposed on other retailers. While c-stores have had to work hard to make their stores safe and limit the number of customers inside at one time, they were deemed an essential service in the early days of the pandemic.

In fact, c-stores were lauded for their role helping Canadians access the products and services they needed, especially when some of the larger grocery stores were plagued with line-ups and shortages on everything from baking supplies to cleaning products and, yes, toilet paper.

“I hope people will adapt to the changes and come a bit earlier to pick up their things, otherwise it’ll result in a big drop in sales,” Youssef told CBC.

With the curfew that come into play on Saturday January 9 and is expected to remain in place until February 8.

In a statement on it’s website, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada outlined how the issues affects the industry:

  • c-store employees’ shift must end at 7:30pm so that they are able to respect the curfew
  • the Quebec government will be providing a special pass for workers that need to travel to and  from their workplace past curfew; these passes should be available in the next few days
  • dépanneurs operating a gas station will be allowed to remain open beyond the curfew are to sell all products except alcoholic beverages past 8pm
  • c-stores will not be held responsible for policing clients who should not be out during curfew
  • store gas stations will not be permitted to deliver during curfew hours.

Quebec is the only province with a curfew in place at the moment, however, as numbers continued to spiral in Ontario, there was speculation one could be imposed in the province.

Last week, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada Convenience wrote to the Ford government asking the Ontario “to exempt gas stations and convenience stores from further restrictions, including a curfew, should one be considered.” The organization points out that c-stores provide essential goods to frontline and shift workers 24 hrs/day.

On January 12, Ontario declared a State of Emergency and new measures, but stopped short of imposing a curfew. C-stores and gas stations would remain open as essential services.