The province of Alberta announced the closures of all non-essential businesses in late March 2020. Food production, in general, is important and was explicitly listed as an essential service in the announcement from the beginning, along with many other businesses. However, details about which services in the food production business were essential was not explicitly listed. 

This lack of detail left some business owners with little guidance on what they should do, and many owners questioning whether they should close their doors during this period or not. 

Two owners in the horticulture business decided to confront this ambiguity directly and began working with the province of Alberta to validate and confirm the status of their essential horticulture services.

Horticultural Retail and Production Deemed “Essential” in Alberta 

Horticulture production includes retail businesses that sell natural food from inception to consumption. This includes seeds, ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruits. These businesses also sell tools that can assist with food production, including the hardware and growing supplies like fertilizer and soil.

The horticulture retail business was not explicitly written as essential when the province of Alberta first made their announcement, thus after a couple of weeks of negotiations and working together with the ministry, the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association and Landscape Alberta have succeeded in securing the status of “essential services” for the horticulture sector in Alberta

Horticulture businesses that can operate from their retail and production locations include those in garden centres, greenhouses, nurseries,  and farmer markets.

Of course, proper social distancing, improved sanitation, along with other preventative measures, need to be strictly followed. This announcement is more positive news for the Alberta retail CRE market, along with the proposed gradual opening of more retail businesses in Alberta beginning on May 14th.

Alberta Can Learn From Saskatchewan Grocery Stores 

While Alberta is opening more food production business, grocery stores across Canadian provinces are implementing new safety measures to keep their employees and customers safe, while staying open for business.

Many shoppers have complained that it’s tough to follow the social distancing rules while shopping. The shopping lanes in some stores are narrow, with little space for carts to pass through, especially when they are coming from two directions. 

Luckily, Saskatchewan grocery stores have come up with ingenious solutions to this problem. 

A few stores have introduced one-lane traffic at their locations, making it easier for shoppers to keep a distance of 6 feet (2 metres) between themselves while shopping. 

Saskatchewan stores have also introduced designated senior shopping hours, allowing those over the age of 65 to buy groceries safely and conveniently. Further, during phase 2 of the Saskatchewan government’s five-phase plan to reopen includes retail businesses and salons. 

Alberta and other Canadian provinces can learn from Saskatchewan’s stores to create a safer and cleaner environment for all staff and shoppers. 

In Summary  

If businesses and individuals continue following the recommended measures to flatten the curve of the pandemic, we hope to see things to slowly improve over time. 

We’ll likely need to continue to practice social distancing and increased sanitation protocols for the foreseeable future; however, the ingenious safety measures that businesses are coming up with will help keep doors open and everyone safe.

Retail CRE is holding strong in Canada, and retail CRE investors would be smart to act fast and take advantage of the expected increase in demand for retail space as more retail businesses in Alberta and Saskatchewan starts to reopen this month.

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