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Study Tracks Retail and Restaurant Closures Across Canada

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A new study of consumers shows about one-third of Canadians indicate that a store they regularly visited in the past has closed permanently and four in 10 have seen the permanent closure of a preferred restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the country, store closures have been noticed most in the Prairie Provinces (40 percent) and Quebec (40 percent), and are least likely to have been witnessed in the Atlantic Provinces (25 percent), according to the Narrative Research survey.

“The impact of stores and restaurants closing as a result of the pandemic should not be underestimated,” said Margaret Brigley, CEO and Partner at Narrative Research. “Despite many government assistance programs and community supports for small businesses, there is no doubt it’s been a challenging year for retail and those in food services.”

Former Urban Barn on King Street East – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Ontario results of 46 percent were the highest when it came to restaurants followed by B.C. (43 percent), the Prairies (42 percent) and Quebec (42 percent).

The survey was taken online January 15-19. Canadians were asked:

  • Have any stores you regularly visit (or regularly visited prior to the pandemic) permanently closed due to COVID-19?
  • Have any restaurants you regularly visit (or regularly visited prior to the pandemic) permanently closed due to COVID-19?

Margaret Chapman, COO and Partner with Narrative Research, said the closure of stores and restaurants being least likely in Atlantic Canada has much to do with the shorter period of lockdown the region had.

“Only in the spring really and then a very short period of lockdown in the fall of restaurants. I think restaurants have been able to stay open longer. We’ve had fewer restrictions in our movement, in our ability to visit restaurants in Atlantic Canada, so I’m thinking that has contributed to restaurants’ viability in Atlantic Canada over places that there’s been stronger either mandates or restrictions on people being able to go out and be in stores and go to restaurants throughout the past year,” she said.

Chapman said it’s a combination of actual restrictions and perceived risks of going out.

“All summer throughout Atlantic Canada we were able to go to restaurants, travel around the region. Life was virtually normal and I’m sure that helped restaurants to sustain their businesses and stores as well,” she said.

“We got used to being back in stores and browsing again instead of just going out for the essentials. I think that’s what contributes to that difference being a quarter. I don’t want to minimize it, it’s still a significant number who’ve seen restaurants and stores close but it’s not the 40 percent we’re seeing in the Prairies for example, or Quebec.”

According to the survey, demographically, for both stores and restaurants, Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to have seen a favourite location close, compared with Gen X or Boomers.

“I think it’s important to put the numbers in context as well. This doesn’t mean a third of stores are closed. It just means that a third of people have witnessed one of the places they would have gone to having closed,” explained Chapman. “It’s a little distinction.

“But it’s an indication a lot of people are seeing changes in their communities and it’s of course having an impact on the fabric of the community having that many stores and restaurants being a favourite place you would have gone to no longer operational.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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