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

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

March 25, 2020

Since mid-March, Atlantic governments have been mandating 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.)

All retail businesses across Atlantic Canada can continue to sell to customers online, by telephone and or by mail or delivery, including curbside pickup with physical distancing respected.

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) worked with Atlantic governments to expand the list of many retail categories within the various governments’ definitions of “essential retail”.  The lists are unique to each Atlantic province. Please visit the RCC website to get links to regional-specific information.


Mandatory Closures (similar between all Atlantic provinces):

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

Included in the Definition of Essential Retail (similar between all Atlantic provinces):

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

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.


Provinces Without a Prescriptive List of Essential Retail:

  • Nova Scotia: most retail remains open without limits on the number of people in the retail store.  Social distancing must be enforced.

Provinces with Prescriptive Lists of Essential Retail:

Note: there are separate exemptions related to each Atlantic Province.  These exemptions can be found on the RCC website.

Fines for non-compliance:

  • Nova Scotia
  • Newfoundland and Labrador

Specific provincial limits on social gatherings / tax deferrals / government relief programs can be found on the RCC website:

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.  Please visit regularly for updates. 

Jim Cormier
Atlantic Director

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