Easter Weekend Presents Some Challenges For Consumers & Businesses

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Retail Business Holidays Act requires closures but offers some leeway. Local Chamber‐member pharmacies, Pharmasave and Shoppers Drug Mart in the Cambrian Mall, will open on Easter Weekend to help alleviate challenges faced by Sault Ste. Marie residents needing to have prescriptions filled during the Good Friday and Easter Sunday statutory holidays.

“The issue first come to our attention in February when the Chamber was contacted by City Councillor Susan Myers.”, notes Mark Barsanti, Chamber President. “Councillor Myers advised us that she and other various members of City Council had been approached by residents regarding challenges in getting prescriptions filled during statutory holidays when most local pharmacies are closed. “

Barsanti explains that the Retail Business Holidays Act identifies nine statutory holidays when retail businesses in Ontario must remain closed. In addition to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the Act also identifies New Year’s Day, Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as well as any other public holiday declared by proclamation of Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services website, businesses found to be in contravention of the Act can be fined “$500 for the first offence, $2,000 for a second offence and $5,000 for a third or subsequent offence. Retail outlets may be fined up to $50,000 or the total amount of gross sales for the holiday, whichever is greater.”

Barsanti notes however that there are exemptions to the Act. He explains that the Act does allow certain businesses to remain open such as stores that that sell handicrafts, book or magazine stores that are less than 2,400 square feet with a maximum of three employees, pharmacies under 7,500 square feet, nurseries, flower shops, gardening centres and gas stations. Stores may also remain open in locations established as tourist areas by specific municipal by‐laws.

“In many cases it’s the square footage that provides a challenge” notes Barsanti. “Many pharmacies far exceed the maximum square footage allowed in the Act because many pharmacies have moved to a retail format where they provide much more than prescriptions and basic health care goods and services; that presents a challenge because in order to meet the guidelines of the Act, large pharmacies would literally have to block or rope‐off part of the store in order to ensure that they are operating on a smaller scale within the allowances of the Act for the duration of the holiday.”

A letter from the City’s legal department in 2012 confirms that pharmacies in compliance with the square footage requirement by reducing their retail space through closure of aisles would not be fined by City Police.

Easter weekend produces added challenges for both retailers and consumers as well… Because both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are considered statutory holidays under the Act, people requiring prescriptions are faced with the reality that pharmacies that close would actually be closed for not one, but two full days within a 72 hour period. Retailers that choose to open, pharmacy or otherwise, have to budget for paying all staff at statutory holiday rates.

“Combine the square footage limitations and the extra wage costs multiplied by two different stat holidays and it’s easy to see why some businesses might see staying closed as the simpler alterative,” suggests Barsanti, “but that doesn’t address the challenges faced by people in the community needing their prescriptions.”

Earlier this week, the Chamber office was advised that Pharmasave would be opening several hours each day over the Easter weekend, in compliance with the guidelines noted in the Retail Business Holidays Act. Fellow Chamber of Commerce member pharmacy Shoppers Drug Mart in the Cambrian Mall will also be open.

Pharmasave (658 Second Line W) will be open will be open Good Friday, Saturday April 19th and Easter Sunday from noon to 6:00pm. The Cambrian Mall Shoppers Drug Mart will be open Good Friday, Saturday April 19th and Easter Sunday from 8:00am to midnight.

Barsanti notes that it is a good to see that local businesses have stepped up to fill a void in pharmacy service during these days in particular adding that lack of access to medications could be a serious problem and a major inconvenience for so many people. The Chamber would like to remind Sault residents to plan ahead wherever possible and ensure that they have sufficient prescription medications on‐hand prior to long weekends and statutory holidays.

For more information, contact:

Mark Barsanti, President
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce
Tel: (705)949‐7152