Ontario Retailers Tell Premier Ford “There is a better way”

Open for Business on New Year's Day?

Major Retailers Call on Premier to Change Retail Shutdown Policy

TORONTO – A long list of major retailers has sent Ontario Premier Doug Ford an open letter calling on the Ontario Government to re-examine the restrictions on retail business.

The retailers say that the efforts to combat COVID-19 by shutting down smaller retailers, deemed “Non-Essential” is actually creating more problems than it is solving.

“The problem is that Ontario’s policy of segregating ‘non-essential’ retailers from those deemed essential might actually be making things worse,” states the letter.

Part of the issue could be that the way of directly tracing COVID-19 cases could be leading the Ontario Government to take the actions they have. The letter states, “Only 0.2% to 0.9% of recent weekly cases related to outbreaks have been associated with retail environments, according to the Government of Ontario’s own statistics.”

The solution to the problem is offered in the letter. The major retailers say that with limits on the numbers of people in stores, with mandatory masks, enhanced cleaning, and hand sanitizer it is better to let the small retailers be open, and keep the retail sector going, than it is to shut it down.

The COVID-19 shutdown for Toronto and Peel Region is, according to the letter, simply having people travel further to make purchases for the holiday season.

Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Honourable Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier of Ontario and Minister of Health

Dear Premier Ford and Minister Elliott:

We respect the extraordinary efforts you and your administration are making to safeguard the public interest during this extremely challenging time. We share your commitment to the principle that unless we address the public health crisis there can be no sustainable economic recovery.

The problem is that Ontario’s policy of segregating ‘non-essential’ retailers from those deemed essential might actually be making things worse.

  • Shutting down Toronto and Peel hasn’t reduced the number of shoppers.
  • Instead, it has funneled those shoppers and the corresponding health risk into fewer, increasingly crowded stores within Toronto and Peel, as well as adjacent communities, such as we saw in Vaughan and Markham over the weekend. This potentially creates greater health risk.
  • At the same time, as the current policy pushes more Canadian consumers to a handful of big box retailers and discount stores, thousands of small, independent and local stores sit shuttered, with their hands tied, even though many sell the very same goods.
  • In the process, Canadian retail businesses are being destroyed and tens of thousands of jobs are being lost. This, despite the fact that only 0.2% to 0.9% of recent weekly cases related to outbreaks have been associated with retail environments, according to the Government of Ontario’s own statistics.
  • Retailers of all sizes are being forced to lay off good people in hundreds of stores closed by an ineffective policy. Rather than hire thousands of temporary workers to handle the holiday rush, so-called non-essential retailers will hire zero. Once lost, many of these jobs won’t return.

There is a better way.

We ask that you move immediately to open all retail in Ontario, and impose a 25% capacity limit on ‘non-essential’ retail in lockdown regions, just as several other provinces have done, all with guidance and support from public health officials. This will put fewer people in more stores, increasing safety for all. The current policy does the opposite.

Together with mandatory mask policies, social distancing, hand sanitization and the numerous other safety measures already in place, capacity limits can further reduce the potential for community spread while enabling more businesses to stay open across all regions during a make-or-break season for retail businesses.

Large and small retailers need each other to create a vibrant retail ecosystem. Collectively, we are asking that you join with us in common cause and a shared commitment to keeping Ontario families safe and secure through this extraordinarily challenging period.

Capacity restrictions backed by strong social distancing and other safety measures already in place will deliver better health outcomes in a way that is effective, fair, saves jobs and supports local businesses and families.

On behalf of our respective companies, members and all of the various businesses and individuals that depend on the retail sector for their livelihoods, your thoughtful consideration and bold leadership on this matter will be greatly appreciated.


Aldo Group David Bensadoun – Chief Executive Officer

Ardene – Mark Dervishian – Chief Operating Officer

Becker’s Bridal & Formal –  Barbara Levy – Director

Birks Group Inc. – Jean-Christophe Bédos – President and Chief Executive Officer

Brown Shoes Inc. – Michael Brownstein – President

Canadian Tire Corporation – Greg Hicks – President & CEO

Drift Outfitters & Fly Shop – Rob Cesta – Owner/Operator

Golf Town & Sporting Life – Chad McKinnon – President

Groupe Dynamite Inc. – Liz Edmiston – President & CEO

Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) – Frederic Tavoukdjian – Country Manager

Harry Rosen Inc. – Larry Rosen, C.M. – Chairman & CEO

Henry’s – Gillian Stein – Chief Executive Officer

Hudson’s Bay – Iain Nairn – President & CEO

IKEA Canada – Michael Ward – CEO & CSO

Indigo – Heather Reisman – CEO

Kitchen Stuff Plus – Mark Halpern – President

La Vie en Rose – François Roberge – President and CEO

Linen Chest – Sheldon Leibner – CEO

Leons Furniture Limited (LFL Group) – Mike Walsh – President & COO

Long & McQuade Musical Instruments – Steve Long – President

MEC Canada – Eric Claus – Chairman and CEO

Mastermind LP – Sarah Jordan – CEO

Mega Group Inc. – Kim Yost – President/CEO

Mister Safety Shoes – John Colantonio – Managing Director

OK Tire Stores Inc. – Jim Caldwell – President and CEO

Old Navy Canada – Dana Dito – Vice President

OutHere by Marcus Chaves – Marcus Chaves – Owner

Peavey Industries LP – Doug Anderson – President & CEO

PetSmart Canada – Alan Blundell – Senior Vice President, President Canada & Retail Operations

Purdys Chocolatier – Karen Flavelle – CEO & President

Reitmans – Jackie Tardif – President

Roots Corporation – Meghan Roach – President & Chief Executive Officer

Saks Fifth Avenue – Marc Metrick – President & CEO

Saks OFF 5TH – Paige Thomas – President & CEO

Sephora Canada – Gregory Bruyer – General Manager

Showcase – Samir Kulkarni – CEO

Sleep Country Canada – David Friesema – Sleep Country Canada

Source for Sports – Brad Hause – President

Staples Canada – David Boone – Chief Executive Officer

Stitch It Clothing Alterations & Dry Cleaning – Taimoor Jamil – President & CEO

Sydney’s Custom Inc. – Sydney Mamane – Owner

TG Appliance Group Inc. – Jason Goemans – Vice President

The Brick – Dave Freeman – President

Toys”R”Us Canada | Babies”R”Us Canada – Vic Bertrand – President & CEO

Urban Barn – Linda Letts – President

William Ashley – Jackie Chiesa – President

YM Inc. – Eric Grundy – Chief Executive Officer

SOURCE Hudson’s Bay on behalf of multiple retailers

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