Most Canadians Feel Safer Shopping at Small Businesses Over Big Box Stores: Survey

December 8, 2020 Updated: December 8, 2020

Most Canadians feel safer shopping at small local shops than busy big box stores, a new survey says.

The survey, released on Tuesday, found that 72 percent of Canadians feel safer shopping in small retail stores with reduced capacity than at busy big box stores such as Costco and Walmart.

The survey was conducted by market research firm Maru/Matchbox on Dec. 4 with 1,510 Canadian adults 18 years old and above via an online portal. It was done on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a non-profit organization that advocates for small businesses.

The findings also show 93 percent of the respondents thought that the government should allow small local retailers to stay open with limited numbers of customers inside at a time.

Above all, 87 percent of them agreed that it is unfair to close “in-store shopping at small retailers, while allowing ‘big box’ stores to remain open for in-store shopping” with British Columbia agreeing the most at over 90 percent, followed by Ontario, Alberta, and Atlantic provinces at 88 percent.

In addition, nearly 80 percent of Canadians said that if small shops have to close, big box stores should not be allowed to see similar items either.

“It makes no sense at all to close small businesses that are deemed non-essential to in-store shopping while pushing crowds to big box stores who are permitted to sell the same merchandise, like Ontario has done in Toronto and Peel,” President of CFIB Dan Kelly said.

Toronto and Peel regions have been categorized as grey zones, which means its a lockdown zone, as per Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework since Nov. 23.

When asked why Ontario didn’t establish a policy that allows small businesses to stay open “in some sort of other way” to compete against the big box stores, premier Doug Ford replied “You’re right. It’s not fair.”

“After speaking to some of the big box stores, it’d be a logistical nightmare. They have essential items spread out throughout their whole store and then on top of that, how do they monitor and restrict people from going in there? That’s the feedback I got off them,” Ford said during a press conference on Nov. 23.

“That’s why we put an additional 300 million dollars in to support small businesses and the 90 percent rent, 65 percent of their wages, and took care of their property taxes, their energy costs.”

CFIB noted that even though Manitoba is equally restrictive on small retailers, “they are at least fair as big box stores are also prohibited from selling non-essential goods.”

Ford, however, had said his conversation with the CEO of Walmart Canada confirms the “logistical nightmare” and “it’s creating massive problems out there.”

As for other provinces, Saskatchewan has allowed small retailers to operate while placing a 50 percent capacity restriction to large retailers, whereas Alberta, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec have capacity constraints for retailers of all sizes.