Nova Scotia shuts down in-store non-essential retail; RCC secures additions to list of ‘essential’ retail products - Retail Council of Canada
Advocacy | Coronavirus | Nova Scotia | Wins

Nova Scotia shuts down in-store non-essential retail; RCC secures additions to list of ‘essential’ retail products

UPDATE APRIL 29, 2021: As Nova Scotia retailers manage the province’s lockdown, RCC continues its efforts to expand the list of products that are considered ‘essential’.  RCC can confirm that the Nova Scotia government listened to RCC’s call for gardening supplies and workplace safety supplies to be added to the list of products essential to the life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals.  The list of ‘essential’ retail products now includes:

As the COVID-19 variant cases continue to climb, the Nova Scotia government has declared that as of 8:00am on April 28, 2021, only retailers selling products and services ‘essential to the life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals’ will be able to welcome customers in-store.  All stores are allowed to engage in delivery and curbside pickup. 

Retail products deemed ‘essential’ (UPDATED LIST):

  • food
  • pharmaceutical products, medicine and medical devices
  • personal hygiene products
  • cleaning products
  • baby and child products
  • gas stations
  • computer and cellphone service and repair
  • electronic and office supplies
  • hardware supplies
  • pet and animal supplies
  • gardening supplies
  • workplace safety supplies,
  • Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) and their Agency Stores

Retailers that sell these products may remain open to in-store customers but must, at all times, limit the number of customers to a maximum of 25% of store capacity.  This capacity is based on the building code.

Retailers that do not sell ‘essential’ products may continue to sell their products via home delivery or curbside pickup.  For shopping malls, a customer’s curbside pickup can include entering the mall and receiving the retail product outside of the retail store.  The common areas of shopping malls are technically off limits to customers.  However, mall customers are allowed to line up outside of a retail store (in the common area) while waiting for their curbside pickup. The line cannot exceed five people.

Shopping Malls:

Customers are allowed to frequent stores in shopping malls but they must go directly to the store.  They cannot congregate in common areas.  Stores in shopping malls that sell non-essential products cannot welcome customers in-store.  However, these products can be sold through home delivery, curbside pickup and customer pick up in the mall’s common area (directly outside of the entrance to the retail store).  This is subject to agreement from the shopping mall.

Stores allowed to welcome customers in-store cannot go beyond 25% of the building code.

All retailers must continue to follow their COVID-19 operational plans to ensure safety while engaging in the sale of essential and/or non-essential products.

These rules will be in effect for at least the next two weeks as the province tries to reverse the troubling trend of COVID-19 variant cases.

Quick Service Restaurants

  • contactless take-out, drive through and delivery is allowed


  • personal services such as hair salons, barber shops and spas are closed
  • cinemas are closed
  • Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax and Sydney and First Nations gaming establishments and VLTs must close

Other restrictions

  • Personal gathering limits are severely reduced.
  • All schools are closed to in-person learning.  Daycares remain open.
  • No unnecessary travel between communities.  A community is defined as the municipality where you live – people should stay as close to home as possible when accessing essential or necessary services or products
  • Masking requirements have been further enhanced.


On April 28, 2021, the Nova Scotia government imposed a provincewide lockdown to combat significant increases in COVID-19 and variant cases.  RCC did not oppose the government’s lockdown but has been consistent in its advocacy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that government should not make determinations of ‘essential’ versus ‘non-essential’ retail / retail product.  Instead, RCC has advocated for all retailers to be given the option of opening to the public and selling all retail product.  RCC agrees that Public Health should retain the authority to limit in-store capacity, if warranted.  Over the past year, RCC was successful in that all retail was allowed to remain open.  However, the recent COVID variant outbreak caused the provincial government to finally reject RCC’s position and formulate a list of ‘essential’ retail products.  Today, the Nova Scotia government provided additional clarification that retailers who sell ‘essential’ products (and thus, can welcome customers in-store) are also permitted to sell ‘non-essential’ retail products to their in-store customers.  Senior government officials noted that they do not want to see / hear of mass merchants actively promoting the sale of non-essential products for in-store purchase.

Nova Scotia’s updated mandatory order.  Within the mandatory order, retailers may find the following to be of interest:

  • Mask requirements have been increased but the only new impact for retail will be in administrative offices: Page 13-14
  • Retail requirements: Page 21
  • Shopping Mall rules: Page 22
Jim Cormier

For questions or more information contact

Jim Cormier
Director, Government Relations (Atlantic) 
902 422-4144