The topic of “Big Box” stores versus small independent stores came up during council’s January 19 session with several councillors expressing anger at how some large department stores are letting customers buy more than just groceries and other essential items on their premises.
“I find that exteremely unfair,” said Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis.
Tsourounakis and other council members are concerned that smaller stores that just deal in furniture, electronics, or other items face unfair competition from the larger department stores during the current lockdown. They are limited online or phone orders from potential customers and to curbside pickup and home delivery services. The larger multi-product department stores that feature groceries as part of their sales products can also benefit from customers browsing around in other sections of the store and buying non-essential items like furniture, hardware, electronics, and such.
Tsourounakis also noted that Hawkesbury is at risk of having Québec residents cross over the Long Sault Bridge to shop at the large department stores in the town and avoid the current restrictions on store operations in that province.
“This is not only an economic issue,” he said, “but also a (health) safety one as well.”
Mayor Paula Assaly observed that other municipalities have complained to the provincial government about the issue of “big box” stores allowing unrestricted access for customers to all their sales departments. Hawkesbury council agreed to send its own letter to Premier Doug Ford demanding tighter restrictions on department store operations during the lockdown.
Copies of the letter will also go to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and to the Easter Ontario Wardens Caucus. Council will also consult the Eastern Ontario Health Unit on the subject.