Sanitary restrictions: retail in shock

Health restrictions: retail in shock< /p> and Julien McEvoy MISE À DAY

Still reeling from Thursday's announcement, major Quebec retailers are still weighing their options pending the adoption of a decree that, in principle, should force them to impose the vaccine passport to their customers.

Health restrictions: retail in shock

Richard Darveau, president of AQMAT

Even if legal action is still seriously considered and some big-box stores openly flirted with “civil disobedience” the day before, it was time for behind-the-scenes games yesterday.

“I would speak more of” intense representations “with the ministries than of preparation for a war of trenches before the courts”, tried to illustrate in the Journal, yesterday, the president of the Quebec Association of hardware and building materials (AQMAT), Richard Darveau.

Influencing the details

The strategy of the targeted retailers: use every opportunity to their disposal to try to influence the content of the decree still in preparation before it is adopted by the government. 

“We do this as much for our members as for their customers,” said Retail Council of Canada President Michel Rochette. We must at all costs prevent tension from rising at the entrance to shops. » 

Time is running out: the vaccination obligation imposed on businesses over 1,500 square meters (16,000 sq. ft.) is supposed to come into force on January 24. Many details remain to be communicated. 

For the moment, the Ministry of Health and Social Services is limited to specifying that only “businesses whose main activity is the sale of grocery or pharmacy products” will be exempt. But according to its minister, Christian Dubé, Walmart and Costco will have to comply despite their food supply.

Overwhelmed customers

This is the kind of subtlety that succeeds in exasperating both retailers and consumers, visibly tired of the succession of health control measures imposed by the government of François Legault for almost two years.

In Montreal , on Friday, customer fatigue was palpable near a big-box store. 

“They tried booze and pot, and now they're trying this. It makes no sense. I'm doing my good citizen, I listen to them, but it's starting to be difficult to take them seriously, ”reacted Gabriel Samson.  

A few steps further on, another client who is poorly informed of the latest measures announced by Quebec raises doubts about their application. 

“I have just arrived, but my phone is dead due to the cold just before I left home,” says Guillaume Applebay. 

He wonders what he would have done if he had had to present his vaccination passport when arriving at the store. 

“My phone is on the ground because of the frost. […] Could I have entered the same way? he wonders.  

Great frustration

Christian Bélair, general manager of the independent hardware store Lortie et Martin, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts in the Laurentians, understands the situation and is sorry that so many complications fall on the shoulders of his customers and employees.

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“I have clients, he says, professional contractors, who order me $700,000 to $800,000 a year worth of materials to whom I will have to tell that I cannot continue to supply them because my store is 40,000 square feet. »

“As an entrepreneur, I tell myself that it doesn’t make sense to send them elsewhere. I will have to follow the rules, but I assure you it is very frustrating. He hopes that, with his fleet of 12 delivery trucks, he will be able to keep the majority of his customers.

The file is not closed

< p>Meanwhile, several major chains are trying to interpret every word of Thursday's press conference as best they can. The Prime Minister announced the reopening of businesses on Sundays (starting next week) and the vaccination obligation for customers of all businesses over 16,000 sq.ft.

This includes a number of branches Renaud-Bray bookstores, quick on Friday to demand that the government add the book trade – a sector deemed non-essential – to the other sectors already exempt from the application of this measure (pharmacies and food merchants).

Would its president be ready to go to court? 

“Spontaneously, legal disputes are not an avenue that we favor, replied the president of Renaud-Bray, Blaise Renaud. However, we believe that the government still has the opportunity to correct the course […] We remain optimistic about the government's ability to show flexibility in this file. »

On the other hand, the legal process does not seem to be completely excluded by Walmart Canada which, as we know, has a large food and pharmacy offer, in particular, we specify, through its affiliated pharmacies Accès Pharma. 

“Following yesterday's announcement, writes its spokesperson, we will take the time to carefully analyze the forthcoming government decree. » 

Costco, Walmart Simons and the other greats are swimming in the fog   

Without a government decree, it will be difficult for major Quebec retailers such as Costco, Walmart, Canadian Tire, La Baie, or even Simons to prepare, or even to comment on the measures announced at a press conference last Thursday.

< p>That day, Quebec Premier François Legault confirmed the reopening of businesses on Sundays starting January 23 and the imposition of a vaccination passport in large stores (over 16,000 sq. ft.) starting January 23. January 24, with the exception of pharmacies and grocery stores. 

“A Costco will have to request a passport, vaccination, a Walmart will have to require a passport vaccination,” said the Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, in response to questions from journalists.

Any other exemptions?

Yet there's no denying that Costco and Walmart have a vast grocery offering…and the latter also operates a drugstore chain, which regulars could hardly do without.

Could they therefore be exempted from the application desired by Quebec of the vaccination obligation for their clients? This is one of the many details that will have to be clarified by the government decree currently being prepared in Quebec.

Very short deadlines

“Even opting for an accelerated procedure, it is a task that will undoubtedly require officials to work on it all weekend. This is not an easy task, warns a government source familiar with the matter. The technical, practical and legal issues of such a document are numerous. » 

– Martin Jolicoeur

HERE ARE MORE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS:   

  • Stores of 1500 square meters are affected by these measures. But, should they count the size of their warehouses?   
  • Will unvaccinated employees be able to continue working in these stores?   
  • What tools will businesses have to control access to their stores? ? Will the government provide them with the required tools?   
  • Can an employer, for example, force his employee to download a vaxicode on your cell phone?    

Divine Sundays for convenience store owners    

They are benefiting greatly from the closure of most of the other businesses 

Albert Sleiman in one of his convenience stores in Joliette. The trader owns six and calls the decision to close most other businesses on Sundays a “gift”.

Health restrictions: retail in shock< /p> Yves Servais, President of AMDEQ

For a third Sunday in a row, grocery stores and the vast majority of businesses will be closed tomorrow. Criticized by some, the measure is enough to make the owners of convenience stores smile, still open and more profitable than ever.

“The misfortune of some is the happiness of others”, says Yves Servais, general manager of the Association des Marchands Dépanneurs et Épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), which does not represent supermarkets.

Without having official figures, Mr. Servais speaks of an increase of more or less 20% in the turnover of convenience stores on Sundays since the beginning of the year in Quebec. 

Sales jump

Premier François Legault imposed, on December 30, the closure of all businesses on Sundays, except those deemed essential. The reason given was to give respite to businesses that lack employees. The measure will end next week. 

“It's ideal for us, they gave us a gift. Our turnover has increased by a good 30%,” says Albert Sleiman, who owns six convenience stores.

Located in Montreal, Laval, Deux-Montagnes, Joliette and Saint-Félix- de-Valois, its shops do not overlook large boulevards and are anchored in residential areas. 

“We sell more groceries, milk and bread, it explodes. Even the SAQs, which have less stock, gave us a hand: we also sell more wine,” rejoices the merchant.

In Saint-Boniface, Mauricie, the owner Dépanneur Sonic also talks about a 30% jump in sales on Sundays. 

“I've just placed my milk order, it's almost doubled,” says Charles Lemoyne, manager of place for 24 years. 

With an area of ​​4,000 sq. p>

“We sell less gas on weekends, because people hardly move, but we win in the end,” says Mr. Lemoyne. 

The closing of businesses on Sunday was the best time of year for convenience stores. “The month of January is normally quiet, it has been a little less so this year”, indicates Yves Servais, from AMDEQ. 

Pharmaprix too

It's not just convenience stores that are benefiting from this, since pharmacies have also been open on Sundays since the beginning of the year. 

Pharmaprix, owned by Loblaw since 2013, is by far the chain that offers the widest range of food thanks to its “Market Zone”. It includes, among other things, fresh vegetables and meat. 

Pharmaprix did observe a “slight increase, but not necessarily marked” on Sunday. But “it is difficult to attribute it solely to the closing of other businesses on Sundays”, however, indicates Johanne Héroux, from Loblaw. 

– Julien McEvoy

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