Photo Credit: Heidi Fin via Unsplash


Under normal circumstances, shopping during this time of year is a nightmare. While the deals you can find are usually pretty good, the crowds make everything unbearable. Whether it’s fighting for a parking spot, finding out that the one thing you need is sold out, or having to wait in endless lines at the cash register, the amount of people at the mall in the lead up to the holidays is just exhausting.


This year though, we have to throw a whole other variable into the mix. COVID-19 is certainly going to make this year’s shopping experience even more ridiculous, no matter what way you slice it.


Even just this past week, as I tried to get a head start on my Christmas shopping, I already found myself having to wait outside of stores because they reached their customer limit. Mind you, the mall was not busy, not even close. I easily parked right by the door I wanted, had no issue finding everything in stores, but because of the pandemic, lines were already exaggerated. I couldn’t imagine what it was like on Black Friday and I surely don’t hope to find myself needing to go back to the mall any time in the last week or two before the fateful day. 


Then there’s online shopping. While usually a reliable method of getting things you might not find in the stores around where you live and getting it quickly, now, with the pandemic, deliveries have come to a standstill. The sheer volume of people ordering online has brought our postal service to its knees. While you may be able to squeeze a few more things in before it’s too late, anything you order in the second week of December and onward is almost certainly not going to make it in time.


Another important thing to worry about during this time is, most importantly, your health. While many of us have gotten caught up in the normal hustle of this time of year, we need to still remember that the pandemic poses an existential threat to us all, especially if so many of us are going on these huge shopping sprees. 


With so many more people in the malls, proper physical distancing is going to be almost impossible. Also, as most of us are expecting another major shutdown early in the new year, some stores may be more keen to look the other way as they try and cash in on these last few major shopping days.


As there are way more people in the stores, the chances are that there will be a lot more anti-maskers out and about as well. While I’d say it’s always a bad idea to tell a stranger in public to wear a mask, during the holiday season it seems to me like an even riskier thing to do. The best thing for your safety and others would be to just keep your head down and avoid these people, unless you’re looking to interrupt your shopping with a shouting match in the line at Walmart. Ah, the holidays.


The ill-timed shutdowns in Peel Region and Toronto are certainly going to exacerbate the crowd issues here in Niagara (especially at the outlet mall). There really could have been some more thought put into that decision, because obviously shutting down stores in those cities isn’t going to make people stop shopping for Christmas, they are just going to go to surrounding regions, putting even more of us at risk. 


With all that said, I think you can (mostly) get your shopping done safely. The key will be to get in and out quickly and maybe earlier than you have in the past. The longer you wait, the worse the crowds are going to get and the more you will be putting yourself at risk. Online shopping is basically not an option at this point, unless the people on your list are willing to wait. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may have some luck at smaller, locally-owned shops as well. The best part about them is that they are likely going to be a lot less busy too, so you can support local businesses and avoid the crowds, a win-win.


Last but not least, I urge everyone, no matter what your shopping plan is this year, to stay safe and remember what’s really important during the holidays. Not giving the perfect gift or getting exactly what you wanted, but the food!