Elora and Fergus festive shopping nights adapt to COVID world

·3 min read

ELORA/FERGUS – Shoppers in Elora and Fergus are still in the holiday spirit as they go downtown, in reasonable numbers, for evening shopping nights.

Starlight Shopping Elora and Late Night Sip and Shop in Fergus are an opportunity for residents to get some holiday shopping in with extended hours at downtown stores.

“It’s sort of an opportunity to encourage people to get a head start on christmas shopping,” said Maclean Hann, Elora BIA chair and owner of The Evelyn in Elora.

“It encourages people to keep their Christmas dollars local.”

In Elora, downtown streets have closed off to cars to allow for more distancing much like was done on weekends in the summer.

Unlike previous years, where Starlight Shopping takes place over two evenings, this year is four evenings on the last two Thursdays and Fridays in November.

Hann said the stores are still offering the same kind of experience as previous years but gives people less of a rush to get out.

“Combined with the streets being closed, it really gives people I think a sense of comfort,” Hann said. “It’s not going to be as crowded as it normally would be. You have more time to look after it so there’s less of a panic, you don’t have to condense all of your shopping into one evening.”

Hann said the stores in Elora still have seen a good amount of people coming through.

In Fergus they’re taking the same approach by spreading their shopping evenings into four Thursday and Friday nights.

Melinda Croft, owner of The One and Only, explained that keeping stores open later allows people who would normally be working during their weekday hours to spend locally.

“The shops being open until 10 gives them something to be able to come out to and social distance and not be so rushed to get their shopping done but then also support local stores,” Croft said.

Croft said it could also skew people away from purely online purchasing.

“One of the biggest things is online is so convenient, so we’re trying to make it a little bit more convenient too,” Croft said, adding that a lot of the downtown Fergus stores have gone online as well for those who don’t feel comfortable shopping in-store.

Normally, Sip and Shop is a bigger event with a tree lighting ceremony but some aspects of it couldn’t go forward this year.

However, downtown Fergus is still decorated, Santa Claus can be spotted around and you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown.

Croft said she doesn’t think those shopping will be from out of town and doesn’t think locals should be concerned about visitors from out of town.

“I don’t think on a Thursday and Friday night they’re really coming out from the cities,” Croft said. “We mostly get local traffic during the week versus a Saturday when we get visitors from out of town more.”

In regards to visitors coming from lockdown regions, Hann said the best they can do is to follow and enforce public health guidelines as much as possible.

“It is safe to say there likely is some worry that’s happening but there’s also the reality of there’s really not a whole lot we as small business owners can do there,” Hann said, noting that tourists are crucial to the local economy.

“Everyone is cautious but ultimately everybody wants to sell things in their stores. If that takes people from other regions then I guess that’s just how it is.”

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com