Another COVID Christmas hurting local retail sales

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Less than two weeks before Christmas, many Ottawa businesses are still feeling the pinch from COVID.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, only 35 percent of small businesses in Ontario have normal revenues for this time of year.

Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for Ontario at CFIB, says Christmas will not be bright and happy for many businesses. Almost 18 percent of small businesses in Ontario are considering bankruptcy.

“Sales across the province are not looking very good this holiday shopping season,” said Kwiecinski. “Now, with the new variant, it keeps people at home and gives them the habit of shopping online.

Kwiecinski said more than half of businesses are concerned their customers have switched to online shopping or larger business purchases and will not return. “

At St Laurent Mall, foot traffic and sales are up from last year, but merchants say habits have changed.

Instead of spending the afternoon shopping, dining, and perusing stores, customers come in and out, just getting what they had already planned to buy.

Kristina Sparkes, director of marketing at St Laurent, said that while there is optimism around this Christmas season, the numbers have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve seen a nice increase in traffic over last year, we’ve seen a lot of people shopping, but we’re definitely not back to the 2019 scenario,” said Marketing Manager Kristina Sparkes.

“We don’t have some of the occupancy restrictions we’ve had in the past and people are happy to have inventory to sell in their stores.”

Buyers CTV News spoke to were positive about Christmas 2021, saying being able to reunite as a family means they’ll spend more.

Client Ally Mamo says seeing things open makes things a lot more exciting, and she thinks the excitement drives people to spend more.

“I think last year we didn’t do anything, we just stayed at home. COVID was at an all time high and now we can see our loved ones and sort of have a normal Christmas unlike last year. “

However, with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on the rise, families may need to reconsider their vacation gathering plans.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province could take action to restrict gatherings indoors as early as this week.

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