Sanitizing, social distancing among dealers’ strategies during pandemic

Dealers institute social distancing with customers

NATIONAL REPORT — Linda Armstrong, store manager at Eganville Country Depot, a Castle dealer in eastern Ontario, reports that business at her store has not changed too much in recent days. “We still have people coming in,” she says. She has a big store in a small community so now, even when it’s busy, it’s not crowded, she notes. Customers can shop comfortably and maintain social distancing—six feet apart. And because those customers tend to be locals, the comfort level is relatively high.

Dealers like Armstrong are working out strategies to adapt to a situation that changes daily. Here is a roundup from across the country:

  • Manitoba: Star Building Supplies in Winnipeg has taken measures to protect staff and reassure customers. Now, deliveries to residential jobsites, which were formerly taken right into the house are left in the garage or at the curb.
  • Saskatchewan: Westrum Lumber is sanitizing the store three times a day instead of three times a week. This includes light switches, keypads and doorknobs. Co-owner Mark Westrum is concerned that contractor business may fall off next week if workers on jobsites have to stay home, either to self-quarantine or to look after kids stuck at home while there’s no school.
  • Ontario: Heather Mallard Houle, co-owner of Severn TIMBER MART, has closed the retail area of her store to walk-in customers. An intercom has been set up in front of the store, along with a payment terminal. Customers are instructed to give their orders by phone or text. They can then pick them up at the back of the store.
  • Quebec: Independent retail chain Canac has encouraged customers to do their shopping online. To support that, Canac will make local deliveries at no charge on orders over $50 for a limited time.
  • Toronto: Costco employees are handing each customer latex gloves and wiping down their cart for them.
  • Elsewhere: Tractor Supply in Kentucky is ramping up animal feed, pet food, livestock and pet medicines. Furniture and appliance retailers Ameublements Tanguay in Quebec City and Brault & Martineau and EconoMax in the Montreal area have closed their doors, but continue to take online orders and provide home delivery.


Bernie Owens, president and CEO of TIMBER MART, has been busy fielding a variety of concerns from his members over the past few days, and that includes cash flow. “Now is the time to get behind your solid clientele and service them,” he says. “But don’t extend more credit to customers who are already slow. The credit side is an imperative right now. Now is the time to chase your receivables.”