Saskatoon·Q&A

Will Sask residents flock to dental offices, golf courses, hair salons when they reopen in May?

The Saskatchewan government’s plan to gradually restart the economy is set to launch next month. Will the public rush back to campgrounds, eye appointments and flower shops?

Phase 1 of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan set to start May 4

Will consumers go right back to businesses as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted? (Troy Turner/CBC)

If you open it, will they come?

The Saskatchewan government's plan to gradually restart the economy is set to launch next month. Will the public rush back to campgrounds, eye appointments and flower shops?

In Germany and other countries that have loosened COVID-19 restrictions in recent days, many residents have decided to stay home.

CBC reporter Jason Warick discussed these issues with David Williams, associate professor of marketing in the University of Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business.

The following interview has beenedited for length and clarity.

Warick: The first phase of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan is set to launch May 4. Do you think people will come back right away?

Williams: I think people will be more likely to go to their medical appointments because they're reassured about standards of sterilization and control of spread. People will also go to outdoor activities such as golfing and fishing as the weather gets better. As far as going back to shopping, I don't really know.

I think it could vary by the business and I don't think it will be right away. People have been laid off and are having enough trouble paying rent and various bills. People may return to visiting stores, but not as much until they get on their own feet economically.

David Williams, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business, says it may not be business as usual when stores, medical offices and golf courses open across Saskatchewan in phases beginning next month. (submitted by David Williams)

Even if people are able to spend money, will they shop in physical stores?

They won't just return. A lot more people have gotten used to shopping online. More of them know how to use the tools. There's debate over how much of this will be long-term.

Has the pandemic caused people to rethink their spending habits?

We've had a once-in-a-lifetime event so it may change our attitude toward consumption, create self-reflection. But that could be short-term. We're just human. We could get back to our old ways. Long term, the economic machine will trend toward what we had before.

Will businesses need to be marketed differently?

The marketing, the pitches will need to adapt. They may stress the convenience or the lack of contact in the store. Or maybe they'll just say, 'We're part of your neighbourhood. You can trust us.'

Will people stick to buying essential items?

There are two possibilities. They may, but some may celebrate after being locked in the house and treat themselves to luxuries.

With the government's re-start plan coming in five stages, how can they avoid confusion or animosity?

They're doing it with a centralized message from the premier and from the chief medical health officer. It's backed by data that's publicized. I think the message needs to continue to be slow and steady and methodical.

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