On the morning retail stores in southern Manitoba were cleared to sell everything on their shelves, shoppers lined up for items they wouldn’t normally have waited in the cold for.
It wasn’t the latest technology or a big bargain that convinced Nicole Kingsley and Tony Ingram to linger outside a big-box store on a cool January morning, but new bedsheets.
Not exactly an exciting purchase, they admit.
“It was about a month ago that we realized [we needed them]. At this point, the cat started to get nightmares, had started clawing at the sheets — they needed to be replaced,” Kingsley said.
“It’s been a long month,” she said, chuckling.
Items like sheets, previously considered non-essential under the provincial government’s public health orders and thus banned from in-store purchase, could once again be sold on Saturday.
WATCH | Manitobans head out looking for a deal and a trim:
The province relaxed business restrictions as a reward for a dropping COVID-19 infection rate, allowing all stores in southern Manitoba to open to in-person shopping for all goods.
The revisions to the rules don’t apply to the Northern Health Region, where case numbers remain high.
Elsewhere, for the first time since November, non-essential businesses, and some service providers like barbershops and hair stylists, could reopen and offer their full range of products and services, provided they follow capacity limits of 25 per cent or 250 people, whichever is lower.
And while provincial health officials have discouraged long lineups, pent-up demand from shoppers resulted in lines on Saturday.
Shortly after opening Saturday morning, upwards of 50 people waited outside the Winners in Polo Park under a dusting of snow as temperatures hovered around –8 C (feeling more like –15 with the wind chill). Some waited 20 to 30 minutes to get inside; one person spent an hour waiting in their car.
“We’re happy to be able to get out, see some people, buy what we need,” Ingram said.
“Buy those things that weren’t on the essentials list but have become essentials after two-and-a-half months,” Kingsley added.
Can ‘finally wear some nice clothes’: expectant mom
Jennifer Hamoline, an expectant mother who is about 20 weeks into her pregnancy, couldn’t have predicted the size of clothes she would need when Manitoba’s near-lockdown began 10 weeks ago.
She and her partner, Travis Winkler, walked out of Winners with bags full of clothes — some cardigans and loose-fitting garments for her, and onesies for the coming baby.
“I’m very happy I got a couple of things,” she said. “I can now finally wear some nice clothes.”
Shanessa Murdock was in line to freshen up her office wardrobe, which has grown stale, she said.
“Some nice dress pants, a couple of nice dress shirts,” were on her shopping list, she said. “Whatever I can get my hands on today.”
Friends Caitlin Ingham and Caity Ward were on the hunt for clearance items, ranging from Christmas decor — 10 months ahead of schedule — to dog toys and clothing for an immunocompromised friend.
“I haven’t been in a store in ages, besides like a grocery store,” Ingham said.
It’s great to “just see things and touch things instead of just buying it online and not liking the texture of a shirt.”
Hairdresser ‘fully, fully booked’
For many, a fresh haircut was more essential than shopping.
“You’re gonna make me look young and handsome again,” Don Irish said as he took his seat at MK Hair Salon in North Kildonan, before it was even slated to open.
“You’re lucky…. You’re first,” Kulbir Jatana told her client as she unfurled the salon cape. “After that, I’m fully, fully booked.”
She had to turn other people down all morning, as the phone kept ringing from others looking for appointments.
Jatana is thrilled to finally reopen her salon, she said, but “my clients, they are more happy than me.”
“They are very excited right now.”
At Royal Touch Barbering Services in Winnipeg’s downtown, Kabiru Ogunlana-Tijani made kids his first clients. He says their parents, and other adults, can wait until Monday.
“I thought of other young kids that I cut [hair for] all the time. I said, ‘Man, I wonder what these kids will be going through,'” he said.
“I decided that when we resume back, I’m just going to cut the kids’ [hair] first.”
If Phyllis, who wouldn’t provide her last name, was to sit in his barber chair, she’d have plenty of new reading material at her disposal. She walked out of a Chapters in Polo Park with eight books, carried dutifully by her husband.
“I was extremely excited that the stores were opening, I will not lie,” she said. “This is my retail therapy because I love reading — that is my relaxation.”
Small-business owners were also happy to see the retail reopening.
Melina De Luca, who has been selling wedding and bridesmaid dresses at 7th Avenue Fashions for 30 years, has no doubt the brides will return — even as the pandemic rages on.
“Love is alive and well,” De Luca said. “Nothing is going to stop people from falling in love and getting married.”