What shopping in retail now looks like due to COVID-19

Sudbury business owners who have had to shut their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic are pleased to now reopen with a few changes.

Provincial government now allowing some retail stores to reopen with guidelines

The owner of R Little Secrets Fashions and His Secret Fashions for Men, Mindie Mullen, stands behind a plexiglass shield at her store. It's one of the changes she's made at her business due to COVID-19. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Sudbury business owners who have had to shut their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic are pleased they are able to now reopen with a few changes.

On Tuesday, the Ontario government started its first stage of gradually reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

That first stage allows "retail services that are not in shopping malls and have separate street-front entrances with measures in place that can enable physical distancing, such as limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and booking appointments beforehand or on the spot."

In Sudbury, the owner of Reg Wilkinson Menswear, Todd Wilkinson, was pleased to hear he could reopen. He says the first day back open on Tuesday after being closed for three months was fairly steady.

"It was actually better than I thought it was going to be," he said.

"I had a finger on the pulse from being involved in curbside for weeks prior to that. Lots of questions from customers inquiring, lots of wedding parties happening. There's some virtual graduations happening that we're trying to help people get organized for. So just from being involved in curbside I knew that Tuesday was going to be important to make sure I'm open."

He says he's lucky as his store is about 6,000 square feet, meaning he can fit in about a dozen people while still maintaining physical distancing. Signs are posted on the floor to help and hand sanitizer is available for staff and customers.

Wilkinson says he's been able to bring back all of his staff with the exception of one worker who hasn't been able to find childcare.

Todd Wilkinson is the owner of Reg Wilkinson Menswear in Sudbury. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

When customers try on clothing, Wilkinson says the items are quarantined for 72 hours afterwards.

"It's just part of the new normal, I guess," he said. "The old way is to, you know, touch smell and feel, right."

Down the street at Studio 35 Fashions, owner Ania Derecka opened her business on Tuesday as well.

"It feels great to be back," she said.

"To be honest it's been pretty quiet. I think people are still really cautious and it might take a few days or a little bit longer before everybody feels comfortable enough to be out and about. But yesterday I had quite a few customers through the door." 

Ania Derecka is the owner of Studio 35 Fashions in Sudbury. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Derecka is still waiting for an order of disposable masks to come in, but she does have hand sanitizer by the door. Only four customers are allowed in at a time. Derecka says she's pleased to have her customers back.

"It was amazing just to see some people coming, and a lot of people were just browsing, just because it was their first chance, first opportunity to get out of the house and just kind of like, go back to what they used to do before," she said. 

"So yes, so it was nice just to see people coming through the door and having little chats with them." 

Cleaning equipment is readily available at the Studio 35 Fashion store in Sudbury. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

At R Little Secret Fashions and His Secret Fashions for Men, Mindie Mullen has limited the number of customers in her store to four and has also put in a plexiglass barrier at the cash.

Signs are posted in the store to remind customers of physical distancing and hand sanitizer is available.

As for who is showing up, Mullen says it's a mix of people looking to buy versus those who just want to get out.

"It's a split. I would say it's a 50/50 split, you know, some people are coming out just to browse, just to get out, you know, to have a peek of what's out there," she said. 

"Other people are coming in to purchase, because they want to support us, right, because we're locally owned, and we have a great customer base who have really supported us all along." 

Customer Sue Horvath says she's glad to be supporting a local business. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Customer Sue Horvath says she's glad to be out but still being cautious.

"In a way it's kind of trying to support someone who is local. And we know that to keep our local businesses open, they're going to depend on us," she said.

"For us this is a very quick trip and then we'll be right back home." 

With files from Sarah MacMillan


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