Boxing Day shoppers looking for bargains have found muted sales as well as “we’re hiring” signs and only small groups of people are allowed inside stores to maintain capacity limits due to the pandemic.

Eaton Center in downtown Toronto opened at 8 a.m. on Sunday, with customers allowed into breakout stores to ensure capacity limits are kept at 50 percent.

Canada’s tight labor market has also prompted many retailers to scramble to attract workers ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Morne Viljoen, who recently moved to Toronto from South Africa, was shopping on Boxing Day for the first time in Canada.

He was looking for electronics and kitchen items “to furnish his home,” he said, and started shopping as soon as the stores opened.

Viljoen said he felt “relatively safe” to shop early in the day with fewer people in the stores.

The Province of Ontario reported 9,826 new cases of COVID-19 the day after Christmas.

Retail Council of Canada spokesperson Michelle Wasylyshen said in an interview on Sunday that in-person shopping could be affected this year as the highly infectious variant of the Omicron virus has led to an increase in COVID-19 cases. in much of Canada.

“Due to the new variant, I think today we will see a significant shift towards online shopping. “

University of Toronto Rotman School of Management professor of operations management Opher Baron said he noticed fewer promotions on Boxing Day this year.

“We are all aware of the supply issues since the onset of COVID,” Baron said in an interview on Sunday.

“There are delays in the supply chains so there is a little less stock that people want for the holidays.”

Stores have been making deals since November because “businesses are trying to smooth demand a bit,” which is why fewer people were lining up in malls on Sunday, he noted.

Wasylyshen said some retailers have faced an overabundance of product in recent months, which could mean bigger discounts as prices are slashed to remove products from shelves and make room for seasons to come.

“I think we’re going to see a change in that it’s not just a one-day event,” she said. “It will be a weeklong event, and maybe even longer due to the unexpected nature of the arrival of some products.”

But Baron said shopping continues to offer some escape and relief as Canadians go through another pandemic wave.

“We’re social animals so we have to go out, meet our families, make friends and it’s been a long time where we’re less exposed than usual,” Baron said. “Maybe a few purchases will put us in a better mood, at least for a little while.”

Karl Littler of the Retail Council of Canada had earlier said that capacity restrictions in at least six provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, could potentially deter customers.

Ontario reinstated public health restrictions last week to curb the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants, retailers, gyms and other indoor facilities are only allowed to open at 50% of capacity. Indoor social gatherings are also limited to a maximum of 10 people, while outdoor gatherings can only have 25.

David Voss was another of the first Eaton Center customers in search of a DVD player. Although he didn’t get the deal he wanted, he said he bought one anyway.

As a retail worker at a big box store that regularly deals with customers, Voss said he felt safe shopping with protocols in place.

Ahilan Ganesalingam was looking at the Eaton Center and Best Buy nearby for last minute gifts for his nephews and a coworker.

He wanted to shop as quickly as possible so that it wasn’t crowded, he said.

“For my nephews, I got stuff from Best Buy and Foot Locker,” he said. “And I’ll probably buy some cologne for my colleague.”

– With files from Christopher Reynolds and Virginie Ann in Montreal, Danielle Edwards in Halifax.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 26, 2021.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.