Nova Scotia

Small business owner wants N.S. to close lockdown loophole that benefits big retailers

Linda Finigan is willing to make sacrifices when it comes to her businesses and trying to help stop COVID-19. What the Lunenburg County resident has a problem with is when those sacrifices are greater for small businesses than large chains.

Retailers open to customers for essential items can also sell non-essential goods

Linda Finigan and her husband operate Woods Wise Outfitters and Choice Awards in Lunenburg County. (Submitted by Linda Finigan)

Linda Finigan is willing to make sacrifices when it comes to her businesses and trying to help stop COVID-19.

What the Lunenburg County resident has a problem with is when those sacrifices are greater for small businesses than large chains.

"Our livelihood is being threatened, and I feel that it's being put on the backs of small people like us," Finigan said in an interview.

"Retail has not shut down. What they [government] have done is created a monopoly in retail for the large box stores."

Finigan and her husband, Alex, operate two shops in Oakhill: Woods Wise Outfitters, a hunting, fishing and archery shop, and Choice Awards, which sells trophies and does engraving and custom framing.

'The parking lots are full'

The latter has seen a dramatic decrease in business during the pandemic, with the former being what the couple has been relying on for an income.

When the latest public health orders were issued, essentially putting a halt to all in-person retail sales — except at places that sell items deemed essential to individuals and animals — Finigan closed down her shops.

But she has watched in frustration as large chains remain open because they offer essential items, while continuing to sell non-essential items such as the ones in her shop.

"If I went now to one of the big guys in our area, you would not know there's a pandemic. The parking lots are full. People are shopping in those stores like they did last week. My parking lot is empty because I'm not allowed to sell that same product," she said.

Finigan, who is not set up for online retail, doesn't oppose the public health order. She simply wants the government to make it so large retailers that are open can only sell items deemed essential.

She points to examples in Ontario and Quebec where, during lockdown measures, large retailers have had to rope off certain sections of their stores.

No plans for change

There is precedent for that in Nova Scotia, even with the current health order.

Car dealerships are allowed to keep service centres open, but for at least the next two weeks, they are not permitted to have customers in showrooms or on their lots to look at buying cars, and they cannot offer test drives.

The province has not indicated it plans to make any changes to the current rules.

"If a retail store meets [the public health order] criteria, they can remain open to sell both essential and non-essential items, however we are encouraging Nova Scotians to only go to stores for essential products," a government spokesperson said in a statement.

For Finigan, the matter comes down to the perception that the government has one set of standards for small businesses, and another for major retail chains.

"We're told to be strong, stay together, fight this together," she said. "Why aren't they fighting this battle with us? It's wrong."

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