Downtown Montreal is all ready for the first weekend in the latest phase of COVID-19 related deconfinement; one that allows stores with dedicated street entrances to reopen. If your store is in a mall you are still out of luck.
The main shopping street, Ste. Catherine, has been reduced to a lane and a half for cars. The other side, significantly wider, has been turned into an extension of the sidewalk to allow for proper physical distancing. Not only has the right-hand lane been designated for cars and bikes, but to allow for some semblance of mobility, all parking spots have been removed.
Welcome to downtown Montreal. Please spend your hard-earned dollars in our stores. So sorry you had to drive around for a couple of hours before being able to park your car.
I’ve been a lover of downtown Montreal since I was a young lad and would often take strolls, or ride the 15 bus, and walk back home. I now live on the same street so for the most part I still walk downtown. However, should I be shopping, I prefer to drive (I hate carrying anything when I walk). At this point in time, I would, therefore, probably, sadly, find myself driving to a suburban mall with ample free parking.
If I thought for a moment that this was a temporary measure brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic I would be in full support. But Mayor Valerie Plante has long been angling to reduce if not eliminate cars from the downtown core. The attempt to reopen the economy while still in the grips of the pandemic has afforded her an opportunity to move ahead with her plans to turn St. Catherine Street into a pedestrian mall. This, in my humble opinion, will be a death knell for the area I am so fond of.
But on a brighter note, the infamous ‘new normal’ includes a style of shopping often equated with men. Perhaps it’s just a matter of stereotypes, but men and women approach the task of obtaining items in stores differently. Women prefer to enter the establishment with an open mind, known as shopping, and look around. Maybe they have an idea or two but will make the final choice once in the store.
While men go into the store with the item they want already sussed out. We may do a bit of online research prior to arriving, just to get proper colour, size, and occasionally SKU number so as to reduce in-store time to an absolute minimum. The mere thought of meandering aimlessly around a retail outlet has been known to cause palpitations in the hearts of heretofore healthy men.
Now, with restrictions on touching and, possibly tainting, items, the emphasis is on the get-in-get-out approach to retail buying, the way we men have been doing it for years. I spoke with someone who had gone to buy a pair of shorts at a popular retailer in downtown Montreal.
There was a short line. Each customer has a salesperson with them at all times. They ask you first-off what you want to buy. If you say you’re just looking, they suggest you go home and check out their website. When you tell them you want to buy, in this case, men’s shorts, they bring you directly to that item. They wait while you look at the options – and as kids used to say you look with your eyes, not your hands.
Once you have decided on, let’s say, the dark blue cargo shorts, the salesperson takes out one in your size and it’s off to the cash we go. You are well-advised to know your size because in a time of COVID there is no trying-on of items and no returns!