New Brunswick | Newfoundland and Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Store Operations

Is my retail business an “essential service”? for retailers in Atlantic provinces

May 13, 2020

In mid-March, Atlantic governments mandated the closure of all “non-essential” workplaces in an effort to help limit the preventable spread of COVID-19 (Workers who can work from home are encouraged to telework.). 


  • Nova Scotia has allowed most retail to remain open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • New Brunswick lifted all restrictions and allowed the retail sector to reopen as of May 8, 2020.
  • Prince Edward Island lifted all restrictions and allowed the retail sector to reopen as of May 22, 2020.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador will lift all restrictions and allow the retail sector to re-open as of June 8, 2020.

All retail businesses in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI can continue to sell to customers onlineby telephone and or by mail or delivery, including curbside pickup with physical distancing respected.

The essential retail lists are unique to each Atlantic province. Please visit the RCC website to get links to regional-specific information.


Included in the Definition of Essential Retail:

  • Grocery stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Repair garages
  • Retailers of fuel
  • Hardware
  • Automotive parts
  • Office supplies
  • Convenience stores
  • Animal and fish feed providers

as well as businesses that provide:

  • Telecommunications services (phone, internet, radio, cell phones)
  • Centres necessary for operation and delivery of these essential services
  • Transport by air, water, road, and rail for supporting supply chain of essential services
  • Warehousing and storage
  • Postal & courier services

Essential retailers must practice physical distancing. There is no limit on the number of people allowed in essential retail stores.

Mandatory Closures (this includes Nova Scotia):

  • Spas
  • Esthetic services,
  • Hair salons
  • Body piercing and tattoo shops
  • Tanning salons 


There are separate exemptions related to each province. For more information and specific provincial limits on physical distancing requirements in stores, government relief programs, tax deferrals and more, see the COVID-19 Measures by Region page.

RCC will continue to fight to ensure retailers that need to close and those that are struggling are provided with as many relief options as possible. 

Jim Cormier
Atlantic Director

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