Some of the country’s top retailers have written an open letter to Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott asking them to relax the current retail lockdown and instead modify it to a 25percent capacity limit. Typical of the comments from retailers were these from Taimoor Jamil, President at Stitch It–a chain of mall-based alteration shops who said, “retail stores are low-risk environments and data on the spread of COVID-19 wholly supports this with 1 in every 500 cases arising in a retail setting. It was a mistake to close most retailers entirely. Doing so has potentially exacerbated the problem as shoppers will be pushed into fewer, increasingly crowded stores within Toronto and Peel, as well as adjacent communities, such as we saw in Vaughan, Markham and Niagara over the weekend.”
The letter follows:
An Open Letter To Premier Ford & Minister Elliott
December 1, 2020
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