Canada

Sparkly hair clips are okay but socks aren’t? Ontarians confused about what they can buy in stores

TORONTO —
The toy aisle at Walmart is barricaded with boxes, and then sealed off with five layers of yellow caution tape, for good measure.

There’s clearly no buying your child a birthday present there, but you can find toys at the grocery store—where you can also buy balloons and candles for the cake.

But over at the dollar store, anything that’s a party supply is cordoned off.

Except the novelty-sized birthday cards. They’re ok—as long as they’re not standard-sized.

“I don’t know if there is a clear line or boundary,” one shopper said Tuesday.

Windshield washer fluid is considered non-essential at WalMart. But you can buy sparkly hair clips at discount stores. Sparkly flip-flops, though, go too far. Don’t even think about buying socks.

“You need clothes to wear!” one woman told CTV News Toronto outside the Gerrard Square mall. 

“I find a lot of stuff that’s blocked off, sometimes you kind of need it, it’s essential,” said another.

Two weeks into the latest set of retail rules, there remains confusion among shoppers about what can be bought where. 

The current provincial rules restrict in-store sales at discount and big box stores to grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items, and personal care items only, but in practice many items still available for purchase could be considered non-essential. 

“What’s essential and what’s not essential is certainly a difficult line for anybody to get right,” Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said Tuesday. 

Most independent stores have been shuttered by the latest provincial order, and the CFIB is advocating for a levelled playing field.

“The principle that we’ve been trying to make sure happens is, if you can’t buy a book at an independent bookstore, you shouldn’t be able to buy it at the big table at the Costco.”

Others stress that not everyone has equal access to online services like Amazon—and need some of the products that are currently roped off in discount stores.

“Parents in low-income communities do not have credit cards often so they can’t order online,” Theresa Pastore of Parents Engaged in Education said. “They can’t afford the common outlets, like Walmart, Costco.”

The current retail rules are in place until at least May 20.


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