While COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the region, some Kitchener residents have started their Christmas shopping nearly five months early in the event of mall shutdowns.
According to the Region of Waterloo website, the region currently has 98 active cases and 10 active outbreaks. While the Ontario government has tightened restrictions in the Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region, locals are afraid the Waterloo Region will be next.
The pandemic previously resulted in the closure of Fairview Park Mall and Conestoga Mall for three months. According to mall employees and consumers, fear of recurrence prompted the start of holiday shopping back in August.
Lori Brouse, a Kitchener resident, began her Christmas shopping during the summer in preparation for store closures.
“After going through lockdown with closure of unessential retail businesses and shortages of certain products, I figured that could all happen again before Christmas if COVID-19 cases got too high,” said Brouse.
Although she has finished the majority of her holiday shopping, Brouse still feels pressured to complete her remaining purchases in consideration of possible mall shutdowns.
Susan Walker, a Kitchener resident, also felt pressure with regards to holiday shopping. She started her Christmas shopping two months ago and made her final purchases last week.
“I started very early in fear stores would close or limit numbers again,” said Walker. “I was worried last week they were going to close seeing we entered phase two in some places.”
Despite the stresses of shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker completed her holiday shopping with ease as a result of her advanced start. She says her Christmas shopping was “stress-free” and suggests that others should start early as well.
Early holiday shopping not only benefits consumers but mall employees as well. Hailey Quin, employee at Saje in Fairview Park Mall, also recommends that people begin their shopping early this year as it eliminates stress for everyone.
“With so many unknowns, it’s best to make it easier on yourselves,” said Quin. “If cases get worse, I can see malls closing and causing more stress than wanted.”
Quin recognizes the fear of malls closing as early holiday shoppers are more frequently entering her store.
“Once September hit I began to see an influx of shoppers coming in with intentions for holiday shopping,” said Quin. “Now with more cases going up, I have seen even more people looking for holiday gifts.”
She believes the consistent volume of holiday shoppers relates to nerves regarding mall shutdowns. Although online shopping would still be an option, closures would make things difficult for people wanting to shop at stores such as Saje. This store carries essential oils and all-natural products for remedies, skincare and home essentials.
“At Saje, everything is smell based so it’s especially hard to shop online when you don’t know how pretty much any of the product would smell.”
Some shoppers are also wary of shopping amidst the pandemic. Isidora Laketa, employee at Aldo in Conestoga Mall, believes that people are shopping ahead of time to avoid the mall’s busiest season.
“The malls are usually super full during the Christmas season anyway so now with all the new rules and regulations it’s going to be a lot harder,” said Laketa. “Lines will be longer to get into stores, there will be people everywhere and it will be difficult to get shopping done.”
Despite rising COVID-19 cases in the area, the Ontario government has yet to tighten restrictions in the Waterloo Region.
While the circumstances regarding local malls this holiday season are unknown, early shoppers are preparing for the worst.
“COVID-19 has ruined a lot of important celebrations for many of us,” said Laketa. “Getting shopping done early can assure the pandemic doesn’t take away aspects of our Christmas too.”