Consumers may be more cautious once B.C. retailers, non-essential services reopen

Consumers may be more cautious once B.C. retailers, non-essential services reopen
WatchMany retailers and non-essential businesses are coming up with plans that will allow them to operate safely during this pandemic. But there's still one big question: Once they open up their doors again, will people feel safe enough to show up? Jasmine Bala has more.

Stores in downtown Victoria are still boarded up with “closed” signs hanging on nearly every door.

“I’d just like to see normal life return as much as possible,” said Roger McGuire, looking around the emptier than usual downtown Victoria.

Some sense of normalcy will be returning to the province later this month, as B.C. officials announced a plan to re-open retail stores and non-essential services in mid-May. This includes hair salons, restaurants and bars.

“People will open up their businesses, and if no one shows up, it won’t be a success,” said Premier John Horgan on Wednesday. “We need to make sure that consumers, people, are comfortable.”

But even with all of the precautions, not everyone is feeling ready to go shopping, to eat out or get a haircut.

“I honestly think I’d rather wait a while. It’s very likely there’s going to be a second wave after that, that’s usually how these things usually work,” said William Feng. “It’s probably better to just keep safe for now.”

Forty-three per cent of Canadians say they would wait until there were no cases for two weeks before resuming their regular, day-to-day activities, according to an Angus Reid Institute survey released last month.

“Consumers have had a wake-up call that basically says the world we used to know, that we used to trust, isn’t what we thought it was and bad things can happen,” said Brock Smith, professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of Victoria. “Now that we know that and are reminded of that, I think consumers are going to be a lot more cautious moving forward.”

Others, however, are more than ready to start shopping and eating at restaurants again. One in ten Canadians say they would pick up former routines “immediately,” according to the survey.

“Personally, I’m going to be absolutely fine doing everything right away, absolutely,” said McGuire.

Consumers like McGuire are essential in kickstarting the economy, Smith noted, adding it’s more important than ever to support local businesses.

“The economic actions we take are going to dictate just how long a recession we’re going to be in,” said Smith. “If everybody stays home and is concerned about not spending anything, then we’re going to be in trouble for a long, long time.”

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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