Some malls and retailers across Canada are reducing shopping hours starting this week in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Over the weekend, some mall owners announced they would cut back shopping hours by as much as 30 per cent for at least the next two weeks.
As of Sunday afternoon, Canadian health officials had not advised retailers to shutter, but some businesses are limiting their operations on their own initiative.
Starting Monday, Cadillac Fairview, which owns 70 malls across six provinces, will limit operating hours at all its locations to between 11 a.m. and 7 pm.
Ivanhoe Cambridge, which owns almost 30 malls across six provinces, is suggesting reduced operating hours to its tenants, although mall doors will remain open according to their usual schedules.
Impact to the bottom line
Jim Cormier, the Retail Council of Canada’s Atlantic director, said cutting back on business hours includes a difficult calculation for retail business owners.
Retailers are facing the “human concern” of ensuring the well-being of shoppers and employees, Cormier said.
“Beyond that, they’re in business. So, you know, it’s also about the bottom line.
“With the changes that have been happening very quickly with regard to shut down of various public facilities and sporting events — now it is starting to impact the retail sector as well.”
Some Canadian consumers started exhibiting hoarding behaviour in the past two weeks, especially with toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other cleaning products, and Cormier said stores selling those products have been doing “very well.”
“But they understand that that’s a blip,” he added.
Ramping up cleaning practices
Cormier said retailers are trying to create “safe and welcoming” environments for shoppers, which includes thorough cleaning. He said part of the reason for reducing store hours is to provide that time for cleaning.
“They’re now taking extra efforts to wipe down shelving, to wipe down the shopping carts, to ensure that they’re not unwittingly involved in and helping to spread any of these types of diseases and respiratory illnesses.”
Cormier said the message he’s focusing on is that it’s “still safe” to shop.
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada grows, governments and health officials have been quickly updating measures to mitigate further spread.
As of Sunday, the federal government was recommending Canadians avoid international travel, and asking anyone abroad to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. Ottawa was also urging Canadian travellers to return home “via commercial means while they remain available.”
Federal and provincial health officials continue to urge all Canadians to increase handwashing and to practise social distancing, which includes avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings.
Cormier admitted malls can be crowded places. But he said despite new limited hours, there are still many opportunities to shop outside the typical peak hours and maintain distance from employees and other shoppers.
“Instead of everybody shopping on a Saturday afternoon … maybe some will move their shopping to other times of the week when there might be a few less people. And if that makes them feel a little bit better … then so be it.”
As of Sunday afternoon, Canada was approaching 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one confirmed death.