Toronto-area mayors urge residents to shop online, support local this Black Friday

It’s a noticeably different Black Friday this year in the Toronto area as strict restrictions are in place amid a second wave of COVID-19.

The hustle and bustle that typically occur on the biggest shopping day of the year are not visible today as many individuals are avoiding in-store shopping and staying home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

And some shoppers simply can’t access their favourite brick and mortar stores in person as Toronto and Peel Region are currently under a provincial lockdown for at least 28 days.

The two hot spots entered the grey lockdown level of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework on Monday in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Lockdown restrictions include the closure of non-essential businesses, including many small businesses and malls, during the lucrative holiday season.

However, big box stores, like Walmart and Costo, that sell essential items such as groceries and medicine, are permitted to stay open during lockdown.

Although public health officials are urging residents to stay home as much as possible, shoppers were seen lining up outside of Walmart locations in Toronto Friday morning to get their hands on some of the store's hottest Black Friday deals.

Mayor John Tory has urged residents and stores to avoid Black Friday sales in order to avoid crowds and reduce the spread of the virus.

He also encouraged residents to shop online and support small businesses that are taking a hard hit during the pandemic.

“Nothing against the big box stores, they are what they are but I think this is a way we can help smaller, independent stores by purchasing online from them, many of them have an online presence, and by doing the curbside pickup, and we’re trying to make that much easier,” Tory told CP24 Friday morning.

The owner of Early Bird & Worm in Toronto’s Roncesvalles areas told CP24 that she’s providing customers a variety of shopping options so her business can stay afloat during the lockdown.

“This is the second lockdown and we’re trying to do as many orders to help the community as possible, by doing email orders, telephone orders. We’re doing local deliveries after my children go to sleep at night just to try and make ends meet,” she said.

Roncesvalles BIA representative Adam Langley said most small businesses in the neighbourhood are trying to cope with the restrictions and urged residents to remember to shop local.

“One of our mantras has been you can shop local, even if it’s online so a lot of our businesses during the first wave did pivot to online shopping and the ones that haven’t are still offering service,” Langley told CP24.

“I think the business owners are ready to fight for the business. They’re inside and they’re waiting to hear from you and they want to get you what you need for the holiday season.”

Meanwhile, Peel Regional Council passed a motion on Thursday that asks the province to immediately look at ways to address the inequity between businesses forced to close their doors and those allowed to stay open during the lockdown.

The motion, however, does not limit the sale of non-essential items at big box stores that Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie had previously advocated for.

“Although the original wording of the motion was amended, I’m pleased that the intent remained- supporting small businesses,” Crombie said in a statement issued on Thursday. “What’s important to me is that we had consensus and presented a united front in defense of our small business community.”

Peel Region recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 case count on Thursday with 572 new infections, while Toronto recorded 356 cases.

The province logged more than 1,800 new cases and 20 more deaths on Friday.

GTA areas not in lockdown ask residents to stay in their region

With limited options for in-store Black Friday shopping in Toronto and Peel, officials in nearby York Region, which is in the red control level under the provincial COVID-19 response framework, are worried many shoppers might flock to the area to try snag a deal.

Under the control category, non-essential businesses, including malls, are allowed to remain open with certain restrictions.

On Friday morning, people were seen lining up outside of Vaughan Mills Mall before it opened at 8 a.m.

Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua is asking people to stay home and avoid shopping unless they need to pick up essential goods.

“We need to continue to be focused on the defeat of COVID-19 and its transmission. When people get up in the morning, the question they need to ask themselves is what can I do to reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” Bevilacqua told CP24.

Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti is echoing Bevilacqua’s remarks and is asking people not to travel outside of their regions to access in-store shopping elsewhere.

He also warned that enforcement officers will be patrolling the city this weekend to ensure businesses and residents are following the rules.

“We will be out there. There’s a coordinated effort this weekend between the Ministry of Labour, our bylaw officers and even York Regional Police when they all have to be called on,” Scarpitti told CP24.

Scarpitti added that Costco and T&T in Markham have recently been charged for overcrowding at their stores. He said fines could range anywhere from $5,000 a day for an operator to $25,000 a day for a corporation.