Ontario retailers adjust to new rules, non-essential goods off-limits to shoppers

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TORONTO — Retailers in Ontario are adjusting to new lockdown restrictions with stores like grocers, discount and big box chains roping off non-essential items from underwear to calculators.

The rules, similar to those rolled out earlier in the pandemic in provinces like Quebec and Manitoba, have left aisles of goods off-limits to in-person shopping.

Some customers posted pictures on social media showing entire sections of stores cordoned off with caution tape, plastic sheeting, pallets, signs or even essential goods like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Retail analyst Bruce Winder says the new rules help level the playing field for retailers.

In previous lockdowns, stores like bookstores and flower shops were restricted to curbside pickup and delivery but shoppers could buy books and flowers in person at grocery and big box stores.

The situation prompted small business owners to complain that the rules benefited larger retailers while hurting smaller, independent operators.

Winder says the latest emergency measures enacted by the province reinforce the message that people should only go shopping for essential items.