Shoppers are heading back to malls in Alberta, but not in the same way as before COVID-19.
The same is true for retail outlets: they’re allowed to open, but not all of them are, Red Deer shoppers say.
This weekend, Bower Place mall was less busy than usual.
Braden Gaalaas, a Red Deer resident, who was there early Sunday afternoon, was waiting to go to the mall, because there hasn’t been much to do since the pandemic hit.
The 25-year-old shopper expected the mall to be busier.
“It’s good for those worried about the spread of the virus – it must mean people are following public orders like social distancing and what not,” he said.
“It could also be because people are out camping and enjoying the nice weather for May long.”
Thursday marked the first day into Stage 1 of the Alberta’s relaunch strategy for most of the province, including the central zone.
Albertans can expect restaurants, hair salons, barbers, places of worship and retail businesses to open in the relaunch’s first stage, Premier Jason Kenney had announced.
The less-busy Bower Place mall was welcoming news for those worried about the spread of the virus, but not so much for the local economy, Gaalaas said.
“It’s better for us who are here, because it’s safer, but not for those who are trying to earn a wage, unfortunately.”
Since COVID-19, he has been shopping online more than usual, probably like many other Alberta shoppers around his age, the Red Deer resident said.
That doesn’t help our local economy, the man agreed.
“With the virus, now you can’t even help yourself,” he said.
Red Deer shopper Cam Holman was at the Bower Place mall around noon. He said he noticed less than 30 per cent of stores were open during his visit.
He said stores need to be open because the province’s economy needs a boost.
“A lot of people aren’t working right now and that’s not good for any of us.”
The shopper also expected the mall to be busier than it was.
“It’s pretty dead still.”
Holman said he believes the majority of people are doing their part to stop the spread of the virus such as washing hands and social distancing.
“They were way too late on how they reacted to it, which put us in this situation, which is not a good one. The more you get open, the more the economy will turn around.”
“And if people want to stay at home, they can stay at home.”
Holman confirmed he’s been shopping at home more than usual amid the pandemic.
“It gets shipped right to your house so it’s convenient,” he said, adding, it doesn’t help the local economy.
“That’s less money in your community.”
Only twelve per cent of Alberta business owners say their business is in a good state, compared to 56 per cent who say their business is in bad shape, according to monthly results from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey on small business confidence, expectations and operating conditions in Canada.
Hiring plans remain quite weak in Alberta with only 11 per cent of business owners planning to hire full-time staff in the next three months, while 45 per cent are planning for layoffs, CFIB noted in the monthly results Thursday.
“Although Alberta has seen consecutive improvements in its small business confidence, we know businesses are still facing severe operating challenges,” said Annie Dormuth, CFIB’s Alberta director of provincial affairs. “With restrictions being lifted and some businesses able to reopen, governments will need to ensure support programs are available throughout the summer and provide additional relief for rent and property taxes.”
Hernan Calderon, a Calgary resident, was shopping at the Red Deer mall Sunday. The Red Deer native visits his parents who still live in the city at least once a week. The visitor wanted to get a light jacket so he decided to pop by the mall.
Calderon had been waiting for stores to open, so he could buy some clothes. He said he prefers to shop at stores rather than online because he likes to try on items beforehand as well as feel the fabric.
“I need to make sure clothes fit right,” he said. “And I like supporting local businesses.”
The Calgary resident said about 20 to 30 per cent stores were open at the mall Sunday.
“I expected it to be busier here today so I actually came early,” he said. “And I like to see people, so it’s a bit boring, but it’s good to keep the virus numbers down.”