Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press

Posted Sunday, December 26, 2021 2:43 PM EST

Last updated Sunday December 26, 2021 6:58 PM EST

TORONTO – Bargain hunters found reduced sales and smaller government-mandated crowds as they headed for a second Boxing Day in a pandemic on Sunday.

Canada’s two most populous provinces had implemented 50 percent capacity limits for the second biggest shopping day of the year, which somewhat spoiled the consumerist festivities.

A queue had formed in front of the Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Montreal even before the doors opened at 11 a.m., and Etienne Paquette and Emilie Provost were among the first customers.

“We tried to get there early to see what the situation was like,” said Provost. “After all, it doesn’t seem to be that bad, it’s crowded. We are really happy to be able to continue our tradition.

Paquette said if the streets had been more crowded they would have gone home and ordered online instead.

The Eaton Center in downtown Toronto, meanwhile, opened at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

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 on Boxing Day.

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,” she said.

Opher Baron, who teaches operations management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said he noticed fewer Boxing Day promotions this year – potentially due to related supply chain issues to COVID-19.

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

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 said.

But Baron said shopping continues to offer escape and relief as Canadians pass 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 said earlier that capacity restrictions in at least six provinces – including Ontario and Quebec – could potentially deter customers.

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.”

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

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

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