Winnipeg retailers adapt ahead of second shutdown; COVID-19 cases rise to record levels

Beverly Kinahan saw Manitoba’s latest lockdown coming as novel coronavirus case numbers rose.

Her business on Corydon Avenue in Winnipeg — October Boutique — is one of many that will shutter its doors to in-person customers Thursday as COVID-19 cases rise to record levels in the Keystone Province.

“I wish we should have been shut down earlier. Fundamentally, we as the community are responsible for how this spread, but the government has to take responsibility in saying two weeks ago, let’s shut it down, let’s keep our last quarter — economically — at least functional,” Kinahan said in her shop Wednesday, worried because the boutique is full to the gills with about $250,000 of retail inventory ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Read more: Manitoba sets deadly record with 9 deaths, adds 431 more coronavirus cases

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Health officials reported nine deaths and 431 new novel coronavirus cases on the eve of the Nov. 12 shutdown — the test positivity rate in the province’s capital is now 10.7 per cent.

Under the new rules, non-essential retail outlets like Kinahan’s will be limited to curbside pickup and delivery, churches will not be allowed to hold in-person services, and people will be forbidden from social gatherings with anyone from outside their household.

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Bars, restaurants, museums and theatres will have to close and recreational activities will be suspended. The restrictions are expected to be in place for four weeks.

For Kinahan, this closure feels more pressing than the spring shut down.

“It’s at a crucial time for probably all businesses in the city, not just my own, so that feels fundamentally different,” Kinahan said.

“What’s next? Trying to just loosely keep my (four) staff afloat. I don’t want to lose them a second time — that’s always a disaster as a small business, you work collectively, it’s not just you on your own.”

Read more: Winnipeg closing outdoor recreation amenities amid coronavirus lockdown

Now, she needs to be creative to keep the business afloat.

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“I have no choice, I have to get super creative, be available, stay virtually present for my clients, running around — delivery, mail, curbside, DMing — whatever they require,” she said.

At the very least, she’ll connect with customers. Even if that doesn’t lead a sale.

“We’ll all be back together again — it has to be. We have to have that feeling of hope,” Kinahan said.

Her business — 19 years on the Corydon Avenue strip — is perhaps better established than some small retailers.

Kinahan’s concerned for other small business owners.

“I feel desperately for them, I remember when I was the new guy, 19 years ago, and… you scratch every day just to keep building and building — I feel for them, I don’t even know how they can push through this,” she said.

“It feels devastating, it’s tearful.”

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Coronavirus: Pallister announces more funding to help Manitoba’s small businesses

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