Leah Davis, store manager at Oscar & Libby’s in downtown Victoria, offers up an idea for 2020 holiday gift giving at their Fort Street location. The pandemic has changed the way this retailer and others do business, says owner Teri Hustins. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Leah Davis, store manager at Oscar & Libby’s in downtown Victoria, offers up an idea for 2020 holiday gift giving at their Fort Street location. The pandemic has changed the way this retailer and others do business, says owner Teri Hustins. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Pandemic alters holiday business strategies for Victoria merchants

Many independent merchants count on holiday shopping to get them through quiet periods

For many independent retailers, holiday gift-giving season is make or break – a time when merchants hope to generate enough revenue to even out slower periods to start the calendar year.

With public health orders relating to COVID-19 changing the landscape of the shopping experience, this year is shaping up to be a very different scenario. With shopping comfort zones varying between people, operators providing clear safety protocols for customers stand the best chance of staying connected to customers, say local retailers.

Teri Hustins, co-owner of the Oscar & Libby’s novelty gift stores and Kaboodles toy shop downtown, is also a downtown resident.

“For me as a shopper, I pretty much spend all my money downtown, and I only shop at places that I feel safe,” she says. “Our approach has always been, if we keep our staff as safe as we can, we will keep the customer safe.”

RELATED STORY: Time to ramp up COVID-friendly shopping: Better Business Bureau

All three shops limit in-store customers to allow for distancing and a sign reminds visitors to wear a mask and hand sanitize upon entry. The store limit renders it virtually impossible to achieve the 25 per cent of annual sales that December typically brings, Hustin says.

That said, the emergence of their online store – set up by a local tech sector volunteer early in the pandemic – has not only helped sales, it gives her customers an alternative to in-person shopping.

At Munro’s Books, customer reviews have indicated appreciation for the safe shopping environment, says managing partner Jessica Walker.

“I think the big challenge for any bricks and mortar retailer is being able to manage physical customers,” she says.

Munro’s, which has high ceilings and good ventilation, allows 20 customers in the store at one time and has a suggested browsing time of 15 to 20 minutes to allow for regular turnover. Masks have not been required, but are now mandatory under the Nov. 19 public health order.

Customers are encouraged to have an idea what they’re shopping for ahead of time, or use online ordering. “Plus, we just got our permit from the city to do curbside pickup. We’re just trying to make life easier for people,” Walker said.

Both retailers voiced gratefulness for residents’ commitment to keeping business at home through the pandemic.

“People are so supportive about shopping local, or shopping downtown this year,” Walker says, “It makes sense, you’re just supporting independent businesses whose staff are local, too.”

Hustins, who is also president of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, sees around her a great willingness to do whatever it takes to provide a valuable service to customers during challenging times.

RELATED STORY: Holiday shopping in 2020 crucial to Greater Victoria businesses

“In our business community we are entrepreneurs, we are resilient, incredibly hard working and we’re problem solvers,” she says. “And we have everything on the line. People’s credit cards are maxed in many cases, and we have no option but to show up and put our best foot forward every day.”


 

Do you have a story tip? Email:don.descoteau@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

don.descoteau@blackpress.ca

Christmas holidayHoliday givingRetail

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Look for the Random Act of Kindness Day colouring contest in Black Press issues Jan. 17. Physical entries can be mailed or dropped off to local Black Press offices. A scanned or photographed entry can be emailed to info@victoriafoundation.bc.ca. Winning entries can get a $50 gift card to Bolen Books and a $100 donation to a charity of their choice from the VIctoria Foundation. (Pixabay)
Colouring contest coming for Kindness Day

Kindness Day colouring contest in partnership with Victoria Foundation

Sidney has moved the remaining parts of its public consultation phase part of the Official Community Plan online. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney moves to an ‘all online engagement’ process for OCP

Staff says OCP charrette scheduled for mid-February

(File photo)
‘Very lucky’: Two passengers, dog escape rollover crash in Saanich unscathed

Vehicle flips on Trans Canada Highway after hitting median, possibly due to ice, firefighter says

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read