Georges Dussault, owner of an antiques shop in the Laurentians, ” says the business has been “very, very calm”.
May 21, 2020 14h44
Updated at 21h16
Fewer customers in the shops, but they are there to buy
The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — More than two weeks after having been allowed to reopen their doors, the merchants of Quebec outside of the greater Montreal — find the déconfinement does not necessarily mean an immediate return to “normalcy”.
Most of the retailers in quebec have been allowed to reopen on 4 may, provided that they have a storefront and to be able to ensure the separation physical to the inside of the business. The store owners interviewed by The canadian Press are reporting sales of less than the life before and a decline of the customer base. But they also point out that customers who take the trouble to move are there to buy.
Georges Dussault, owner of an antiques shop in the Laurentians, ” says the business has been “very, very calm”. Mr. Dussault, who is in this business for 30 years, admits that his business depends heavily on tourists who visit this picturesque region north of Montreal.
Since its reopening last week, Antique The blue House, in Piedmont, has seen that only one to three clients per day — and most of them are buying smaller papers such as door handles or window frames for renovation projects. But it is better than nothing, he said : at least they buy something.
Mr. Dussault is well aware that in times of uncertainty, people try to save rather than a madness on a beautiful piece. The antique dealer has already gone through difficult times and he is planning to survive this one, although it needs to maybe take a second mortgage on his building, if things do not end up resume.
Customers buy !
In Sherbrooke, the clothing boutique of Kim Paré Gosselin is doing a little better : sales of the Beautiful and Rebellious reach approximately 50% of the levels before the pandemic, despite only a quarter of the customers.
As the Sherbrooke city centre is deserted office workers and foot traffic, the usual, “most people come because they need something”, and some buy more items, ” said Ms. Paré Gosselin, whose shop sells clothing of designers from quebec and canada.
As public health measures, it limits the number of customers in the store and ask them to wash their hands at the entrance. The clothes tried are steam cleaned and set aside for 24 hours before being put back on the shelves.
Even if the masks that she has ordered for itself and its personnel have not yet arrived, it will ensure that clerks and customers are more careful and that “no one feels in danger.”
Ms. Paré Gosselin is expected that the summer was rather quiet, due to the cancellation of festivals in the eastern Townships, which generate traffic, and the postponement of marriages, which make the sale of toilet special. But it stresses that even when things are much better than during the great confinement, then she could sell that online.
Not a lot of window-shopping
Stéphane Drouin, executive director of the Conseil québécois du commerce de détail, which represents more than 5,000 retailers, believes that the experience of Ms. Paré Gosselin is fairly representative of the industry. According to him, most of the retailers do not know that 30% to 50% of their “client traffic” normal, but sales per customer are generally higher because “all those who come are there to buy, not to window-shop.
Mr. Drouin has been estimated that most companies have between 50 and 75 % of their sales as normal, even if some are more heavily affected by the crisis. The big chains seem to suffer more, he said, because many of their stores are located in shopping centres, which have not been allowed to reopen, because they do not have a door on the street. The clothing stores are also experiencing more and more difficulties, and the restaurants and bars remain closed.
The canadian Federation of independent business, meanwhile, has estimated that half of small businesses are not able to pay the rent of June without additional assistance from the government. The Federation has requested a reduction in the rent, and access to government assistance programs.
Others draw their pin of the game
But all companies are not suffering from these difficult times for the trade. Mr. Drouin said that some retailers — such as garden centres, hardware stores and shops selling equipment for outdoor activities and running shoes — have seen their sales increase.
The bicycle, in particular, is experiencing a period of glory during the pandemic, ” explains Nicholas Mathieu, who is leading The Walk athlete, to Magog in the eastern Townships. Its sales are “exponential,” he says, so much so that providers are starting to have trouble responding to the demand, especially for e-bikes, and the models that are more affordable for children and families, who are looking for activities to do close to home.
“Everyone wants to get out, everyone wants to move”, explains Mr. Mathieu, who argues that some of the large vendors have seen their numbers double. And it is expected that the figures will improve again now that the Quebec government has authorized the opening up of provincial parks : it is already forecasting a strong increase in the demand for mountain bikes.